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Igor Stravinsky 




Acknowledgments and thanks are due to Madame 
de Tinan for permission to reprint letters by Claude 
Debussy; to Madame Jacques Riviere for letters by 
Jacques Riviere; to Monsieur Edouard Ravel for let- 
ters by Maurice Ravel; and to Harold Ober Associ- 
ates, Incorporated, and the Dylan Thomas Estate 
for letters by Dylan Thomas, copyright © 1953 by 
Dylan Thomas. 

" ^B^tht 







i. About Composing and Compositions 11 

2. About Musicians and Others 37 

3. About My Life and Times and Other Arts Q2 

4. About Music Today ng 
Index 156 

"In the Kingdom of the Father there is no drama 
but only dialogue, which is disguised monologue." 




1: About Composing 
and Compositions 

R.C. When did you become aware of your vocation as a 

I.S. I do not remember when and how I first thought of 

myself as a composer. All I remember is that these 

thoughts started very early in my childhood, long 

before any serious musical study. 

R.C. The musical idea: when do you recognize it as an 

I.S. When something in my nature is satisfied by some 
aspect of an auditive shape. But long before ideas 
are born I begin work by relating intervals rhyth- 
mically. This exploration of possibilities is always 
conducted at the piano. Only after I have established 
my melodic or harmonic relationships do I pass to 
composition. Composition is a later expansion and 
organization of material. 

R.C. Is it always clear in your mind from the inception of 
the idea what form of composition will develop? 
And the idea itself: is it clear what instrumental sound 
will produce it? 

I.S. You should not suppose that once the musical idea 


Conversations with Igor Stravinsky 

is in your mind you will see more or less distinctly 
the form your composition may evolve. Nor will the 
sound (timbre) always be present. But if the musi- 
cal idea is merely a group of notes, a motive coming 
suddenly to your mind, it very often comes together 
with its sound. 

R.C. You say that you are a doer, not a thinker; that com- 
posing is not a department of conceptual thinking; 
that your nature is to compose music and you com- 
pose it naturally, not by acts of thought or will. A 
few hours of work on about one third of the days 
of the last fifty years have produced a catalogue 
which testifies that composing is indeed natural to 
you. But how is nature approached? 

I.S. When my main theme has been decided I know on 
general lines what kind of musical material it will 
require. I start to look for this material, sometimes 
playing old masters (to put myself in motion), some- 
times starting directly to improvise rhythmic units 
on a provisional row of notes (which can become a 
final row). I thus form my building material. 

R.C. When you achieve the music you have been working 
to create, are you always sure of it, do you always 
instantly recognize it as finished or do you sometimes 
have to try it for a greater period of time? 

I.S. Usually I recognize my find. But when I am unsure 
of it I feel uncomfortable in postponing a solution 
and in relying on the future. The future never gives 
me the assurance of reality I receive from the present. 

R.C. What is theory in musical composition? 

I.S. Hindsight. It doesn't exist. There are compositions 
from which it is deduced. Or, if this isn't quite true, 
it has a by-product existence that is powerless to 


About Composing and Compositions 

create or even to justify. Nevertheless, composition 
involves a deep intuition of "theory." 

R.C. Do musical ideas occur to you at random times of 
the day or night? 

LS. Ideas usually occur to me while I am composing, 
and only very rarely do they present themselves when 
I am away from my work. I am always disturbed if 
they come to my ear when my pencil is missing and I 
am obliged to keep them in my memory by repeating 
to myself their intervals and rhythm. It is very im- 
portant to me to remember the pitch of the music 
at its first appearance: if I transpose it for some reason 
I am in danger of losing the freshness of first con- 
tact and I will have difficulty in recapturing its at- 
tractiveness. Music has sometimes appeared to me in 
dreams, but only on one occasion have I been able 
to write it down. This was during the composition of 
L'Histoire du Soldat, and I was surprised and happy 
with the result. Not only did the music appear to me 
but the person performing it was present in the dream 
as well. A young gypsy was sitting by the edge of the 
road. She had a child on her lap, for whose enter- 
tainment she was playing a violin. The motive she 
kept repeating used the whole bow or, as we say in 
French, avec toute la longueur de Varchet. The child 
was very enthusiastic about the music and applauded 
it with his little hands. I, too, was very pleased with 
it, was especially pleased to be able to remember it, 
and I joyfully included this motive in the music of 
the Petit Concert, 


§1111 / ! 

* r v * ■ s —i 


Conversations with Igor Stravinsky 

R.C. You often speak of the weight of an interval. What 
do you mean? 

I.S. I lack words and have no gift for this sort of thing 
anyway, but perhaps it will help if I say that when 
I compose an interval I am aware of it as an object 
(when I think about it in that way at all, that is), 
as something outside me, the contrary of an impres- 

Let me tell you about a dream that came to me while 
I was composing Threni . . . After working late one 
night I retired to bed still troubled by an interval. I 
dreamed about this interval. It had become an elastic 
substance stretching exactly between the two notes I 
had composed, but underneath these notes at either 
end was an egg, a large testicular egg. The eggs were 
gelatinous to the touch ( I touched them ) and warm, 
and they were protected by nests. I woke up knowing 
that my interval was right. ( For those who want more 
of the dream, it was pink— I often dream in color. 
Also, I was so surprised to see the eggs I immediately 
understood them to be symbols. Still in the dream, 
I went to my library of dictionaries and looked up 
"interval," but found only a confusing explanation 
which I checked the next morning in reality and 
found to be the same. ) 

R.C. While composing do you ever think of any audience? 
Is there such a thing as a problem of communication? 

I.S. When I compose something, I cannot conceive that it 
should fail to be recognized for what it is, and under- 
stood. I use the language of music, and my statement 
in my grammar will be clear to the musician who 
has followed music up to where my contemporaries 
and I have brought it. 


About Composing and Compositions 

R.C. Have you ever thought that music is, as Auden says, 
"a virtual image of our experience of living as tem- 
poral, with its double aspect of recurrence and be- 

LS. If music is to me an "image of our experience of 
living as temporal" (and however unverifiable, I 
suppose it is), my saying so is the result of a re- 
flection and as such is independent of music itself. 
But this kind of thinking about music is a different 
vocation altogether for me: I cannot do anything with 
it as a truth, and my mind is a doing one. Auden 
means "Western" music or, as he would say, "music as 
history"; jazz improvisation is the dissipation of the 
time image and, if I understand "recurrence" and 
"becoming" their aspect is greatly diminished in 
serial music. Auden's "image of our experience of 
living as temporal" (which is also an image) is above 
music, perhaps, but it does not obstruct or contradict 
the purely musical experience. What shocks me how- 
ever, is the discovery that many people think below 
music. Music is merely something that reminds them 
of something else— of landscapes, for example; my 
Apollo is always reminding someone of Greece. But 
in even the most specific attempts at evocation, what 
is meant by being "like" and what are "correspond- 
ences?" Who, listening to Liszt's precise and perfect 
little Nuages gris, could pretend that "gray clouds" 
are a musical cause and effect? 

R.C. Do you work with a dialectical conception of form? 

Is the word meaningful in musical terms? 
LS. Yes to both questions, insofar as the art of dialectics 

is, according to the dictionaries, the art of logical 

discussion. Musical form is the result of the "logical 

discussion" of musical materials. 


Conversations with Igor Stravinsky 

R.C.I have often heard you say "an artist must avoid 
symmetry but he may construct in parallelisms." 
What do you mean? 

I.S. The mosaics at Torcello of the Last Judgment are a 
good example. Their subject is division— division, 
moreover, into two halves suggesting equal halves. 
But, in fact, each is the other's complement, not its 
equal nor its mirror, and the dividing line itself is not 
a perfect perpendicular. On the one side skulls with, 
in the sockets, lightning-shaped snakes; and on the 
other, Eternal Life (those white figures, I wonder if 
Tintoretto didn't know them), are balanced but not 
equally balanced. And the sizes and proportions, 
movements and rests, darks and lights of the two sides 
are always varied. 

Mondrians Blue Facade (composition 9, 1914) is a 
nearer example of what I mean. It is composed of 
elements that tend to symmetry but in fact avoids 
symmetry in subtle parallelisms. Whether or not the 
suggestion of symmetry is avoidable in the art of 
architecture, whether it is natural to architecture, I 
do not know. However, painters who paint architec- 
tural subject matter and borrow architectural designs 
are often guilty of it. And only the master musicians 
have managed to avoid it in periods whose architec- 
ture has embodied aesthetic idealisms, i.e., when archi- 
tecture was symmetry and symmetry was confused 
with form itself. Of all the musicians of his age Haydn 
was the most aware, I think, that to be perfectly sym- 
metrical is to be perfectly dead. We are some of us 
still divided by an illusory compulsion towards "clas- 
sical" symmetry on the one hand, and by the desire 
to compose as purely nonsymmetrically as the Incas, 
on the other. 


About Composing and Compositions 

R.C. Do you regard musical form as in some degree mathe- 

I.S. It is, at any rate, far closer to mathematics than to 
literature— not perhaps to mathematics itself, but cer- 
tainly to something like mathematical thinking and 
mathematical relationships. (How misleading are all 
literary descriptions of musical form! ) I am not say- 
ing that composers think in equations or charts of 
numbers, nor are those things more able to symbolize 
music. But the way composers think— the way I think 
—•is, it seems to me, not very different from mathe- 
matical tliinking. I was aware of the similarity of 
these two modes while I was still a student; and, 
incidentally, mathematics was the subject that most 
interested me in school. Musical form is mathematical 
because it is ideal, and form is always ideal, whether 
it is, as Ortega y Gasset wrote, "an image of memory 
or a construction of ours." But though it may be 
mathematical, the composer must not seek mathe- 
matical formulae. 

R.C. You often say that to compose is to solve a problem. 

Is it no more than that? 
I.S. Seurat said: "Certain critics have done me the honor 

to see poetry in what I do, but I paint by my method 

with no other thought in mind." 

R.C. In your Greek-subject pieces Apollo, Oedipus, Or- 
pheus, Persephone, dotted rhythms are of great 
importance ( the opening of Apollo; the canonic inter- 
lude in Orpheus; the "Underworld" music in Perse- 
phone; the Oedipus "Nonne Monstrum" aria ) . Is the 
use of these rhythms conscious stylistic reference to 
the eighteenth century? 


Conversations with Igor Stravinsky 

I.S. Dotted rhythms are characteristic eighteenth-century 
rhythms. My uses of them in these and other works 
of that period, such as the introduction to my piano 
Concerto, are conscious stylistic references. I at- 
tempted to build a new music on eighteenth-century 
classicism, using the constructive principles of that 
classicism (which I cannot define here) and even 
evoking it stylistically by such means as dotted 

R.C. Valery said, "We can construct in orderly fashion only 
by means of conventions. " How do we recognize those 
conventions in, say, Webern's songs with clarinet and 

I.S. We don't. An entirely new principle of order is found 
in the Webern songs which in time will be recognized 
and conventionalized. But Valery's essentially clas- 
sical dicta do not foresee that new conventions can 
be created. 

R.C. A novelist (Isherwood) once complained to you of 
his difficulties in a technical question of narration. 
You advised him to find a model. How do you model 
in music? 

I.S. As I have just described in the case of eighteenth- 
century dotted rhythms; I have modeled this con- 
ventional rhythmic device so that I could "construct 
in orderly fashion." 

R.C. Why did you dispense with bar lines in the Diphonas 
and Elegias of the Threni? 

I.S. The voices are not always in rhythmic unison. There- 
fore, any bar lines would cut at least one line arbi- 
trarily. There are no strong beats in these canons, in 
any case, and the conductor must merely count the 
music out as he counts out a motet by Josquin. For 


About Composing and Compositions 

the same reasons I have also written half notes rather 
than tied notes over bars. This is perhaps more diffi- 
cult to read, but it is a truer notation. 

R.C. Did you model your Threni on the Lamentations of 
any old master as, for example, you modeled some 
dances for Agon from de Lauze's Apologie de la 
Danse and from Mer serine's musical examples? 

I.S. I had studied Palestrina's complete service and the 
Lamentations of Tallis and Byrd but I don't think 
there is any "influence" of these masters in my music. 

R.C. Why do contemporary composers tend to use smaller 
note values for the beat than did nineteenth-century 
composers, eighth-note beats instead of quarters, and 
sixteenths instead of eighths? Your music contains 
many examples of this tendency (the second move- 
ment of the Symphony in C, which is in eighth- and 
sixteenth-note beats, and the final piece of the Duo 
Concertant which is in sixteenth-note beats ) . If you 
were to double the note values of this music, rewrite it 
in quarters and eighths, how would it affect the 
music in your mind? Also, do you always think or see 
the note unit as you compose and have you ever re- 
written anything in different note values after it was 
composed? Your 1943 revision of the Danse Sacrale 
from the Sacre du Printemps doubles the values from 
sixteenths to eighths; was this done to facilitate read- 
ing (does it facilitate reading)? Do you believe the 
size of the note has a relation to the character of 
the music? 

I.S. I don't think you are entirely correct in assuming an 
evolution from half- to quarter- to eighth-note pulsa- 
tions. Contemporary music has created a much 
greater range and variety of tempi and a vastly 


Conversations with Igor Stravinsky 

greater rhythmic range, therefore the greater range 
and variety of rythmic unit ( see any table of notation 
and compare the types of rhythmic unit in use in the 
last five centuries with those in use today). We write 
fast-tempo music or slow-tempo music in large or 
small note values depending on the music. That is my 
only explanation. 

As a composer I associate a certain kind of music, a 
certain tempo of music, with a certain kind of note 
unit. I compose directly that way. There is no act of 
selection or translation, and the unit of the note and 
the tempo appear in my imagination at the same time 
as the interval itself. Only rarely, too, have I found 
that my original beat unit has led me into notation 
difficulties. The Dithyrambe in the Duo Concertant, 
however, is one such example. 

It is difficult for me to judge whether a work of 
mine, translated into larger or smaller note units but 
played in the same tempo, would make an aural dif- 
ference to me. However, I know that I could not look 
at the music in its translated state, for the shape of the 
notes as one writes them is the shape of the original 
conception itself. (Of course the performer with his 
different approach will regard the whole problem of 
notation as a matter of choice, but this is wrong.) 

I do believe in a relation between the character of 
my music and the kind of note unit of the pulsation 
and I do not care that this may be undemonstrable— 
it is demonstrable to me on the composer's side simply 
because I think that way. And conventions have not 
worked universally for so long that we may deny that 
there is any relation of ear and eye. Who can take from 
dictation a passage of contemporary music in 6/4 
and tell whether in fact it is not 6/8 or 6/16? 


About Composing and Compositions 

The point of legibility. I did translate my Danse 
Sacrale into larger note values to facilitate reading 
(of course it is more readable, the reduction in re- 
hearsal time proves that). But legibility and larger 
note values go together only up to a point. This idea of 
fast music in white notes applies only to certain types 
of music (the first movement of my Symphony in C, 
for example, and the Gloria Patri in Monteverdi's 
Laudate Pueri from the Vespers), but this question 
cannot be dissociated from the question of bar units 
and of the rhythmic construction of the music itself. 

Perhaps the present lack of universal conventions 
may be interpreted as a blessing; the performer can 
only profit from a situation in which he is obliged to 
review his prejudices and develop reading versatility. 

R.C. Meters. Can the same effect be achieved by means of 
accents as by varying the meters? What are bar lines? 

LS. To the first question my answer is, up to a point, 
yes, but that point is the degree of real regularity in 
the music. The bar line is much, much more than a 
mere accent, and I don't believe that it can be simu- 
lated by an accent, at least not in my music. 

R.C. In your own music, identity is established by melodic, 
rhythmic, and other means, but especially by tonal- 
ity. Do you think you will ever abandon the tonal 

LS. Possibly. We can still create a sense of return to ex- 
actly the same place without tonality: musical rhyme 
can accomplish the same thing as poetic rhyme. But 
form cannot exist without identity of some sort. 

R.C. What is the feeling now about the use of music as 

accompaniment to recitation (Persephone)? 
LS. Do not ask. Sins cannot be undone, only forgiven. 



R.C. Do you think of the intervals in your series as tonal 

intervals; that is, do your intervals always exert tonal 

I.S. The intervals of my series are attracted by tonality; 

I compose vertically and that is, in one sense at least, 

to compose tonally. 

R.C. How has composing with a series affected your own 
harmonic thinking? Do you work in the same way— 
that is, hear relationships and then compose them? 

I.S. I hear certain possibilities and I choose. I can create 
my choice in serial composition just as I can in any 
tonal contrapuntal form. I hear harmonically, of 
course, and I compose in the same way I always have. 

R.C. Nevertheless, the Gigue from your Septet and the 
choral canons in the Canticum Sacrum are much 
more difficult to hear harmonically than any earlier 
music of yours. Hasn't composing with a series there- 
fore affected your harmonic scope? 

I.S. It is certainly more difficult to hear harmonically 
the music you speak of than my earlier music; but any 
serial music intended to be heard vertically is more 
difficult to hear. The rules and restrictions of serial 
writing differ little from the rigidity of the great con- 
trapuntal schools of old. At the same time they widen 
and enrich harmonic scope; one starts to hear more 
things and differently than before. The serial tech- 
nique I use impels me to greater discipline than ever 


About Composing and Compositions 

R.C.Do you think your time world is the same for the 
kind of music you are now composing and for your 
music of thirty-five years ago ( Mavra, piano Sonata, 
piano Concerto, Apollo ) ? 

I.S. My past and present time worlds cannot be the same. 
I know that portions of Agon contain three times as 
much music for the same clock length as some other 
pieces of mine. Naturally, a new demand for greater 
in-depth listening changes time perspective. Perhaps 
also the operation of memory in a nontonally devel- 
oped work (tonal, but not eighteenth-century-tonal 
system) is different. We are located in time con- 
stantly in a tonal-system work, but we may only "go 
through" a polyphonic work, whether Josquin's Duke 
Hercules Mass or a serially composed non-tonal- 
system work. 

R.C.Do you find any similarity in the time worlds of 
oriental music and of certain recent examples of serial 

I.S. I do not think anything in the nature of the serial 
idea makes series in essence "oriental." Schoenberg 
himself was a cabalist, of course, but that is merely a 
personal preoccupation. We have all remarked a mo- 
notony (not in any pejorative sense) that we call 
"oriental" in serial works, in Boulez's he Marteau sans 
Maitre for instance. But the kind of monotony we 
have in mind is characteristic of many kinds of poly- 
phonic music. Our notion of what is oriental is an 
association of instrumentation chiefly, but also of 
rhythmic and melodic designs— a very superficial kind 
of association indeed. I myself have no habit of any- 
thing oriental and especially no measure of time in 
oriental music. In fact, my attitude resembles that of 


Conversations with Igor Stravinsky 

Henri Micheaux: in the Orient I recognize myself 
as a barbarian— that excellent word invented by Attic 
Greeks to designate a people who could not answer 
them in Attic Greek. 



R.C. What is technique? 

LS. The whole man. We learn how to use it but we cannot 
acquire it in the first place; or perhaps I should say 
that we are born with the ability to acquire it. At 
present it has come to mean the opposite of "heart," 
though, of course, "heart" is technique too. A single 
blot on a paper by my friend Eugene Berman I in- 
stantly recognize as a Berman blot. What have I 
recognized— a style or a technique? Are they the 
same signature of the whole man? Stendhal (in The 
Roman Promenades) believed that style is "the man- 
ner that each one has of saying the same thing." 
But, obviously, no one says the same thing because 
the saying is also the thing. A technique or a style for 
saying something original does not exist a priori, it 
is created by the original saying itself. We sometimes 
say of a composer that he lacks technique. We say of 
Schumann, for example, that he did not have enough 
orchestral technique. But we do not believe that more 
technique would change the composer. "Thought" is 
not one thing and "technique" another, namely, the 
ability to transfer, "express," or develop thoughts. We 
cannot say "the technique of Bach" ( I never say it ) , 
yet in every sense he had more of it than anyone; our 
extraneous meaning becomes ridiculous when we try 
to imagine the separation of Bach's musical substance 
and the making of it. Technique is not a teachable 
science, neither is learning, nor scholarship, nor even 
the knowledge of how to do something. It is creation 
and, being creation, it is new every time. There are 


Conversations with Igor Stravinsky 

other legitimate uses of the word, of course. Painters 
have water-color and gouache techniques, for exam- 
ple, and there are technological meanings; we have 
techniques of bridge building and even "techniques 
for civilization/' In these senses one may talk of com- 
posing techniques— the writing of an academic fugue. 
But in my sense, the original composer is still his own 
and only technique. If I hear of a new composer's 
"technical mastery" I am always interested in the 
composer (though critics employ the expression to 
mean: "but he hasn't got the more important thing"). 
Technical mastery has to be of something, it has to 
be something. And since we can recognize technical 
skill when we can recognize nothing else, it is the 
only manifestation of "talent" I know of; up to a point 
technique and talent are the same. At present all of 
the arts, but especially music, are engaged in "exami- 
nations of technique." In my sense such an examina- 
tion must be into the nature of art itself— an examina- 
tion that is both perpetual and new every time— or it 
is nothing. * 

R.C. Your music always has an element of repetition, of 
ostinato. What is the function of ostinato? 

LS. It is static— that is, antidevelopment; and sometimes 
we need a contradiction to development. However, 
it became a vitiating device and was at one time over- 
employed by many of us. 

* In the case of my own music I know that my first works, the 
Faune et Bergere and the Symphony in E-flat, lack personality 
while at the same time they demonstrate definite technical 
ability with the musical materials. The Faune sounds like 
Wagner in places, like Tchaikovsky's Romeo and Juliet in other 
places (but never like Rimsky-Korsakov, which must have 
troubled that master), and like Stravinsky not at all, or only 
through thickly bespectacled hindsight. 



R.C. What is good instrumentation? 

LS. When you are unaware that it is instrumentation. The 
word is a gloss. It pretends that one composes music 
and then orchestrates it. This is true, in fact, in the 
one sense that the only composers who can be orches- 
trators are those who write piano music which they 
transcribe for orchestra; and this might still be the 
practice of a good many composers, judging from the 
number of times I have been asked my opinion as to 
which instruments I think best for passages the com- 
posers play on the piano. As we know, real piano 
music, which is what these composers usually play, is 
the most difficult to instrumentate. Even Schoenberg, 
who was always an instrumental master (one could 
make a very useful anthology of instrumental practice 
in his music from the first song of op. 22 to Von Heute 
auf Morgen with its extraordinary percussion, piano, 
and mandolin), even Schoenberg stumbled in trying 
to transfer Brahms's piano style to the orchestra (his 
arrangement of Brahms's G-minor pianoforte quartet 
for orchestra ) , though his realization of the cadenza 
in the last movement with arpeggiated pizzicatos is a 
master stroke. It is not, generally, a good sign when 
the first thing we remark about a work is its instru- 
mentation; and the composers we remark it of— 
Berlioz, Rimsky-Korsakov, Ravel— are not the best 
composers. Beethoven the greatest orchestral master 
of all in our sense, is seldom praised for his instrumen- 
tation; his symphonies are too good music in every 


Conversations with Igor Stravinsky 

way, and the orchestra is too integral a part of them. 
How silly it sounds to say of the trio of the Scherzo 
of the Eighth Symphony, "What splendid instru- 
mentation"— yet, what incomparable instrumental 
thought it is. Berlioz's reputation as an orchestrator 
has always seemed highly suspect to me. I was 
brought up on his music; it was played in the Saint 
Petersburg of my student years as much as it has ever 
been played anywhere in the world, * so I dare say 
this to all the literary-minded people responsible for 
his revival. He was a great innovator, of course, and 
he had the perfect imagination of each new instru- 
ment he used, as well as the knowledge of its 
technique. But the music he had to instrumentate 
was often poorly constructed harmonically. No or- 
chestra skill can hide the fact that Berlioz's basses 
are sometimes uncertain and the inner harmonic 
voices unclear. The problem of orchestral distribution 
is therefore insurmountable, and balance is regulated 
superficially, by dynamics. This is in part why I prefer 
the small Berlioz to the grandiose. 

* I remember a description of Berlioz by Rimsky-Korsakov, 
who had met the French master after one of the famous Berlioz 
concerts in Saint Petersburg in the late sixties. Rimsky-Korsa- 
kov, who was then twenty-three or twenty-four, had attended 
the concert with other young composers of the group. They 
saw Berlioz-in a tail coat cut very short in the back, Rimsky 
said-conduct his own music and Beethoven's. Then they were 
shepherded backstage by Stassov, the patriarch of Saint Peters- 
burg musical life. They found a small man-Rimsky's words 
were "a little white bird with pince-nez"-shivering in a fur 
coat and huddled under a hot pipe which crossed the room just 
over his head. He addressed Rimsky very kindly, "And you 
compose music too?", but kept his hands in his coat sleeves, as 
in a muffler. 


About Composing and Compositions 

Many composers still do not realize that our princi- 
pal instrumental body today, the symphony orches- 
tra, is the creation of harmonic-triadic music. They 
seem unaware that the growth of the wind instru- 
ments from two to three to four to five of a kind 
parallels a harmonic growth. It is extremely difficult 
to write polyphonically for this harmonic body, which 
is why Schoenberg, in his polyphonic Variations for 
Orchestra is obliged to double, treble, and quadruple 
the lines. The bass, too, is extremely difficult to bring 
out acoustically and harmonically in the Variations 
because it is the lowest line, merely, and not bass-ic. 
Though the standard orchestra is not yet an anachro- 
nism, perhaps, it can no longer be used standardly 
except by anachronistic composers. Advances in 
instrumental technique are also modifying the use of 
the orchestra. We compose for solo, virtuoso instru- 
mentalists today, and our soloistic style is still being 
discovered. For example, harp parts were mostly glis- 
sandos or chords as recently as Ravel. The harp can 
glissando and arpeggiate en masse, but it can't play 
en masse as I have used it in my Symphony in Three 
Movements. And, for another example, we are just 
discovering the orchestral use of harmonics, especially 
bass harmonics (one of my favorite sounds inciden- 
tally; make your throat taut and open your mouth 
half an inch so that the skin of your neck becomes a 
drumhead, then flick your finger against it: that is the 
sound I mean). 

At the beginning of my career the clarinet was con- 
sidered incapable of long fast-tongue passages. I 
remember my Chopin instrumentations for Les 
Sylphides in Paris in 1910 and an ill-humored clarinet 
player telling me after he had stumbled on a rapid 


Conversations with Igor Stravinsky 

staccato passage (the only way I could conceive 
Chopin's pianism) "Monsieur, ce n'est pas une 
musique pour la clarinette." What instruments do I 
like? I wish there were more good players for the bass 
clarinet and the contrabass clarinet, for the alto trom- 
bone (of my Threni and Berg's Altenberg Lieder), 
for the guitar, the mandolin, and the cymbalom. Do 
I dislike any instrument? Well, I am not very fond 
of the two most conspicuous instruments of the Lulu 
orchestra, the vibraphone and the alto saxophone. I 
do admit, however, that the vibraphone has amazing 
contrapuntal abilities; and the saxophone's juvenile- 
delinquent personality floating out over all the vast 
decadence of Lulu is the very apple of that opera's 

R.C. Are you attracted by any new instruments— electric, 
oriental, exotic, jazz, whatever? 

I.S. Of course, I am attracted by many non-standard or- 
chestral instruments, percussion ones especially, but 
also stringed instruments like those Japanese ones I 
have heard in Los Angeles, whose bridges are moved 
during the performance. And let us not forget the 
fact that traditional symphonic instruments like 
trumpet and trombone are not the same when played 
by jazz musicians. The latter people demonstrate 
greater variety in articulation and tone color and, on 
some instruments, the trumpet for instance, they ap- 
pear to be at home in a higher range than the sym- 
phonic player— the jazz trumpeter's high lip-trills. 
We neglect not only the instruments of other ethnog- 
raphies, however, but those of our greatest European 
composer as well. This neglect is one reason why 
Bach's Cantatas, which should be the center of our 
repertoire, if we must have a repertoire, are compara- 


About Composing and Compositions 

tively unperformed. We don't have the instruments 
to play them. Bach had families where we have single 
instruments: trumpet families, trombone families, 
oboe families, families for all sorts of the strings. We 
have simplifications and greater resonance; where he 
had the lute, perhaps the most perfect and certainly 
the most personal instrument of all, we have the 
guitar. I myself prefer Bach's string orchestra with its 
gambas, its violino and 'cello piccolo, to our standard 
quartet in which the 'cello is not of the same family 
as the viola and bass. And, if oboes d'amore and da 
caccia were common I would compose for them. What 
incomparable instrumental writing is Bach's. You can 
smell the resin in his violin parts, taste the reeds in the 
oboes. I am always interested and attracted by new 
instruments ( new to me ) but until the present I have 
been more often astonished by the new resources 
imaginative composers are able to discover in "old" 
instruments. An entry in Klee's Tagebiicher says 
(under May 1913) : Und das Mass ist noch nicht voll. 
Man fuhrt sogar Schonberg auf, das tolle Melodram 
Pierrot lunaire. And not yet full now either. For 
example, Boulez's third piano sonata is quite as purely 
"pianistic" as an Stude by Debussy, yet it exploits 
varieties of touch (attack) untried by Debussy and 
exposes in its harmonics a whole region of sound 
neglected until now. ( These aspects of the piece are 
secondary, however, to the aspect of its form; always 
close to Mallarmean ideas of permutation, Boulez is 
now nearing a concept of form not unlike that of the 
idea of Un Coup de Des; not only does the pagination 
of the score of his third piano Sonata resemble the 
Coup de Des "score," but Mallarme's own preface to 
the poem seems as well to describe the sonata: 


Conversations with Igor Stravinsky 

". . . the fragmentary interruptions of a capital phrase 
introduced and continued . . . everything takes place 
by abridgement, hypothetically; one avoids the nar- 
ration. . . ." Mallarme thought he was borrowing 
ideas from music, of course, and would no doubt be 
surprised to know that sixty years later his poem had 
cross-pollinated the two arts; the recent publication of 
he Livre de Mallarme * with its startling diagrams 
of the mathematics of form must have been an un- 
canny confirmation to Boulez. ) 

Thus an "old" instrument, the piano, interests me 
more than an Ondes Martinot, for instance, though 
this statement is in danger of giving the impression 
that I am thinking of instrumentalism as something 
apart from musical thoughts. 

* By Jacques Scherer (Gallimard) , the first study of Mallarmes 
unpublished notebooks and papers. 



R.C. What motivated you to compose new sextus and bas- 
sus parts for the lost ones in Gesualdo's motet a sette? 

I.S. When I had written out the five existing parts in score, 
the desire to complete Gesualdo's harmony, to soften 
certain of his malheurs, became irresistible to me. One 
has to play the piece without any additions to under- 
stand me, and "additions" is not an exact description; 
the existing material was only my starting point: from 
it I recomposed the whole. The existing parts impose 
definite limits in some cases and very indefinite ones 
in others. But even if the existing parts did not rule 
out academic solutions, a knowledge of Gesualdo's 
other music would. I have not tried to guess "what 
Gesualdo would have done," however— though I 
would like to see the original— I have even chosen 
solutions that I am sure are not Gesualdo's. And 
though Gesualdo's seconds and sevenths justify mine, 
I don't look at my work in that light. My parts are 
not attempts at reconstruction. I am in it as well as 
Gesualdo. The motet would have been unusual, I 
think, with or without me. Its form of nearly equal 
halves is unusual, and so is its consistent and complex 
polyphony. Many of the motets employ a more simple 
chordal style, and with so many parts so close in range 
one would expect a treatment of that sort: Gesualdo's 
music is never dense. The bass part is unusual too. 
It is of bass-ic importance as it seldom is in Gesualdo. 
His madrigals are almost all top-heavy and even in 
the motets and responses the bass rests more than 
any other part. I don't think I am reading myself into 
Gesualdo in this instance, though my musical think- 


Conversations with Igor Stravinsky 

ing is always centered around the bass ( the bass still 
functions as the harmonic root to me even in the music 
I am composing at present). But this motet which 
might be Gesualdo's ultimate opus would lead him to 
unusual things by the mere fact of its being his unique 
piece in seven parts. (By the same reasoning, I con- 
tend that the lost volume of six-voice madrigals 
contains more complex, more "dissonant" music than 
the five-voice volumes, and the one reference we have 
to any of the madrigals in that book, to Sei disposto, 
bears me out; even his early six-part madrigal Donna, 
se mancidete has a great number of seconds besides 
those which are editors' errors. ) 

I would like to point out the very dramatic musi- 
cal symbolization of the text that occurs at the 
dividing point of the form. The voices narrow to 
three (I am sure Gesualdo has done something simi- 
lar) when at the words "seven-fold grace of the 
paraclete" spread to seven full polyphonic parts. 

I hope my little homage to Gesualdo and my own 
interest in that great musician will help excite the 
cupidity of other Gesualdines to the search for his 
lost work: the trio for the three famous ladies of 
Ferrara; the arias mentioned in Fontanelli's letters; 
and, above all, the six-part madrigals. This music 
must be in the Italian private libraries. (When Italy 
has been catalogued everything will reappear; re- 
cently Hotson, the Shakespearian, found a letter in an 
Orsini library describing an Orsini ancestor's impres- 
sions of a performance in Elizabeth's court of what 
must have been the first night of Twelfth Night.) 
Gesualdo was well related in Naples, in Ferrara, in 
Modena, in Urbino, even in Rome (his daughter mar- 
ried the Pope's nephew). Let us begin there. 



R.C. No composer has been more directly concerned with 
the problems of musical texts sung in translation. 
Would you say something about the matter? 

I.S. Let librettos and texts be published in translation, 
let synopses and arguments of plots be distributed in 
advance, let imaginations be appealed to, but do not 
change the sound and the stress of words that have 
been composed to precisely certain music at precisely 
certain places. 

Anyway, the need to know "what they are singing 
about" is not always satisfied by having it sung in 
one's own language, especially if that language hap- 
pens to be English. There is a great lack of school for 
singing English, in America at any rate; the casts of 
some American productions of opera in English do 
not all seem to be singing the same language. And 
"meaning," the translators argument detre, is only 
one item. Translation changes the character of a work 
and destroys its cultural unity. If the original is verse, 
especially verse in a language rich in internal rhymes, 
it can only be adapted in a loose sense, not translated 
(except perhaps by Auden; Browning's lines begin- 
ning "I could favour you with sundry touches" are a 
good example of just how extraordinary double- 
rhymed verse sounds in English). Adaptation implies 
translation of cultural locale and results in what I 
mean by the destruction of cultural unity. For exam- 
ple, Italian prestos in English can hardly escape 
sounding like Gilbert and Sullivan, though this may 
be the fault of my Russian-born, naturalized-Ameri- 


Conversations with Igor Stravinsky 

can ears and of my unfamiliarity with other periods 
of English opera ( if, after Purcell and before Britten, 
there were other periods of English opera). 

An example of translation destroying text and 
music occurs in the latter part of my Renard. The 
passage I am referring to— I call it a pribaoutki *— 
exploits a speed and an accentuation that are natural 
to Russian (each language has characteristic tempi 
which partly determine musical tempi and charac- 
ter ) . No translation of this passage can translate what 
I have done musically with the language. But there 
are many such instances in all of my Russian vocal 
music; I am so disturbed by them I prefer to hear 
those pieces in Russian or not at all. Fortunately Latin 
is still permitted to cross borders— at least no one has 
yet proposed to translate my Oedipus, my Psalms, 
my Canticum, and my Mass. 

The presentation of works in original language is 
a sign of a rich culture in my opinion. And, musically 
speaking, Babel is a blessing. 

* A kind of droll song, sometimes to nonsense syllables, some- 
times in part spoken. (I.S. ) 


2: Ah out Musicians and Others 


R.C. Do you remember your first attendance at a concert? 

I.S. My first experience of a public musical performance 
was at the Mariinsky theater in Saint Petersburg. 
My impressions of it are mixed with what I have been 
told, of course, but as a child of seven or eight I was 
taken to see A Life for the Tsar. We were given one 
of the official loges, and I remember that it was 
adorned with gilt "winged amours." The spectacle 
of the theater itself and of the audience bewildered 
me, and my mother said later that, as I watched the 
stage, carried away by the sound of the orchestra 
( perhaps the greatest thrill of my life was the sound 
of that first orchestra), I asked her, as in Tolstoy, 
"Which one is the theater?" I remember also that 
Napravnik conducted the opera in white gloves. 

The first concert of which I have any recollection 
was the occasion of a premiere of a symphony by 
Glazunov. I was nine or ten years old and at this 
time Glazunov was the heralded new composer. He 
was gifted with extraordinary powers of ear and 
memory, but it was going too far to assume from that 
that he must be a new Mozart; the sixteen-year old 


Conversations with Igor Stravinsky 

prodigy was already a cut and dried academician. 
I was not inspired by this concert. 

R.C.Were you impressed by any visiting foreign musi- 
cians in your student days in Saint Petersburg? 

7.S. In the early years of this century most of the distin- 
guished foreign artists who came to Saint Petersburg 
made calls of homage to Rimsky-Korsakov. I was in 
his home almost every day of 1903, 1904, and 1905, 
and therefore met many composers, conductors, and 
virtuosi there. Rimsky could speak French and Eng- 
lish, the latter language having been acquired during 
his term as a naval officer, but he did not know 
German. As I spoke the language fluently from my 
childhood, he sometimes asked me to translate for 
him and a German-speaking guest. I remember meet- 
ing the conductors Artur Nikisch and Hans Richter 
in this way. The latter knew no word of any language 
but German, and Rimsky, with no German-speaking 
member of his family present, had to send for me. 
When Richter saw me he scowled and asked "Wer ist 
dieser JunglingF' I remember meeting Max Reger in 
those years, at a rehearsal, I think. He and his music 
repulsed me in about equal measure. Alfredo Casella 
also came to Russia then, at the beginning of his 
career. I did not meet him at that time, but heard 
about him from Rimsky: "A certain Alfredo Casella, 
an Italian musician, came to see me today. He 
brought me a complicated score of incredible size, 
his instrumentation of Balakirev's Islamey, and asked 
me to comment on it and to advise him. What could 
one say about such a thing? I felt like a poor little 

child" and saying so he seemed humiliated. 

I remember seeing Mahler in Saint Petersburg, too. 


About Musicians and Others 

His concert there was a triumph. Rimsky was still 
alive, I believe, but he wouldn't have attended be- 
cause a work by Tchaikovsky was on the program ( I 
think it was Manfred, the dullest piece imaginable ) . 
Mahler also played some Wagner fragments and, if I 
remember correctly, a symphony of his own. Mah- 
ler impressed me greatly— himself and his conducting. 

R.C. Would you describe Rimsky-Korsakov as a teacher? 

LS. He was a most unusual teacher. Though a professor at 
the Saint Petersburg Conservatory himself, he ad- 
vised me not to enter it; instead he made me the most 
precious gift of his unforgettable lessons ( 1903-1906 ) . 
These usually lasted a little more than an hour and 
took place twice a week. Schooling and training in 
orchestration was their main subject. He gave me 
Beethoven piano sonatas and quartets and Schubert 
marches to orchestrate and sometimes his own music, 
the orchestration of which was not yet published. 
Then as I brought him the work I did, he showed me 
his own orchestra score, which he compared with 
mine, explaining his reasons for doing it differently. 
In addition to these lessons I continued my contra- 
puntal exercises, but by myself, as I could not stand 
the boring lessons in harmony and counterpoint I had 
had with a former pupil of Rimsky-Korsakov. 

R.C. What music of yours did Rimsky-Korsakov know? 
What did he say about it? What were his relations 
with new music: Debussy, Strauss, Scriabin? 

I.S. When asked to go to a concert to hear Debussy's 
music he said, "I have already heard it. I had better 
not go: I will start to get accustomed to it and finally 
like it." He hated Richard Strauss but probably for 
the wrong reasons. His attitude toward Scriabin was 


Conversations with Igor Stravinsky 

different. He didn't like Scriabin's music at all, but to 
those people who were indignant about it his answer 
was: "I like Scriabin's music very much." 

He knew well my Symphony in E-flat, op. l, dedi- 
cated to him, and also my vocal suite Faune et 
Bergere, both performed in a concert arranged with 
his help and supervision. He had seen the manuscript 
of my Scherzo Fantastique, but his death prevented 
him from hearing it. He never complimented me; but 
he was always very closemouthed and stingy in prais- 
ing his pupils. But I was told by his friends after his 
death that he spoke with great praise of the Scherzo 

R.C. Did you have Maeterlinck's La Vie des Abeilles in 
mind as a program for your Scherzo Fantastique? 

LS. No, I wrote the Scherzo as a piece of "pure" sym- 
phonic music. The bees were a choreographer's idea 
as, later, the beelike creatures of the ballet (to my 
string Concerto in D ) , The Cage, were Mr. Robbins's. 
I have always been fascinated by bees— awed by 
them after Von Fritsch's book and terrified after my 
friend Gerald Heard's Is Another World Watching— 
but I have never attempted to evoke them in my work 
(as, indeed, what pupil of the composer of the Flight 
of the Bumble Bee would?) nor have I been influ- 
enced by them except that, defying Galen's advice 
to elderly people (to Marcus Aurelius?) I continue 
to eat a daily diet of honey. 

Maeterlinck's bees nearly gave me serious trouble, 
however. One morning in Morges I received a star- 
tling letter from him, accusing me of intent to cheat 
and fraud. My Scherzo had been entitled Les Abeilles 
—anyone's title, after all— and made the subject of a 
ballet then performing at the Paris Grand Opera 


About Musicians and Others 

( 1917). Les Abeilles was unauthorized by me and, of 
course, I had not seen it, but Maeterlinck's name was 
mentioned in the program. The affair was settled, 
and, finally, some bad literature about bees was pub- 
lished on the flyleaf of my score to satisfy my pub- 
lisher, who thought a "story" would help to sell the 
music. I regretted the incident with Maeterlinck 
because I had considerable respect for him in Russian 
translation. Sometime later I recounted this epi- 
sode to Paul Claudel. Claudel considered Maeter- 
linck to have been unusually polite to me: "He often 
starts suits against people who say bonjour to him. 
You were lucky not to have been sued for the 'bird' 
part of the Firebird, since Maeterlinck had written 
the Bluebird first." * 

* Since writing this I have conducted three performances of 
the Scherzo ("whether or not it is 'Fantastique' is up to us to 
decide," one French critic wrote after its premiere in Saint 
Petersburg under the baton of Alexander Ziloti) and was sur- 
prised to find that the music did not embarrass me. The 
orchestra "sounds," the music is light in a way that is rare in 
compositions of the period, and there are one or two quite good 
ideas in it, such as the flute and violin music at no. 63 and the 
chromatic movement of the last page. Of course the phrases 
are all four plus four plus four, which is monotonous, and, hear- 
ing it again, I was sorry that I did not more exploit the alto 
flute. It is a promising opus three, though. 

I see now that I did take something from Rimsky's Bumble 
Bee (numbers 49-50 in the score), but the Scherzo owes much 
more to Mendelssohn by way of Tchaikovsky than to Rimsky- 

The progress of instrumental technique was illustrated to 
me by these recent performances in an interesting detail. The 
original score-written more than fifty years ago-employs three 
harps. I remember very well how difficult all three parts were 
for the harpists in Saint Petersburg in 1908. In 1930 I reduced 
the three parts to two for a new edition of the orchestral mate- 


Conversations with Igor Stravinsky 

This bee-ology reminds me of Rachmaninov, of all 
people, for the last time I saw that awesome man he 
had come to my house in Hollywood bearing me the 
gift of a pail of honey. I was not especially friendly 
with Rachmaninov at the time, nor, I think, was any- 
one else: social relations with a man of Rachmaninov's 
temperament require more perseverance than I can 
afford: he was merely bringing me honey. It is curi- 
ous, however, that I should meet him, not in Russia, 
though I often heard him perform there in my youth, 
nor later when we were neighbors in Switzerland, 
but in Hollywood. 

Some people achieve a kind of immortality just by 
the totality with which they do or do not possess some 
quality or characteristic. Rachmaninov's immortaliz- 
ing totality was his scowl. He was a six-and-a-half- 
foot-tall scowl. 

I suppose my conversations with him, or rather with 
his wife, for he was always silent, were typical: 

Mme. Rachmaninov: What is the first thing you do when 
you rise in the morning? (This could have been in- 
discreet, but not if you had seen how it was asked. ) 

Myself: For fifteen minutes I do exercises taught me by a 
Hungarian gymnast and Kneipp Kur maniac, or 
rather I did them until I learned that the Hungarian 
had died very young and very suddenly, then I stand 
on my head, then I take a shower. 

Mme. Rachmaninov: You see, Serge, Stravinsky takes 
showers. How extraordinary. Do you still say you are 
afraid of them? And you heard Stravinsky say that he 

rial. Now I see that with a few adjustments the same music can 
be performed by one player, so much quicker are harpists at 
their pedals. 


About Musicians and Others 

exercises? What do you think of that? Shame on you 
who will hardly take a walk. 
Rachmaninov : ( silence ) 

I remember Rachmaninov's earliest compositions. 
They were "watercolors," songs and piano pieces 
freshly influenced by Tchaikovsky. Then at twenty- 
five he turned to "oils" and became a very old com- 
poser indeed. Do not expect me to spit on him for 
that, however. He was, as I have said, an awesome 
man, and besides, there are too many others to be 
spat upon before him. As I think about him, his si- 
lence looms as a noble contrast to the self-approba- 
tions which are the only conversations of all perform- 
ing and most other musicians. And he was the only 
pianist I have ever seen who did not grimace. That 
is a great deal. 

R.C. When you were a pupil of Rimsky-Korsakov, did you 
esteem Tchaikovsky as much as you did later, in the 
twenties and thirties? 

LS. Then, as later in my life, I was annoyed by the too 
frequent vulgarity of his music— annoyed in the same 
measure as I enjoyed the real freshness of Tchaikov- 
sky's talent ( and his instrumental inventiveness ) , es- 
pecially when I compared it with the stale naturalism 
and amateurism of the "Five" (Borodin, Rimsky- 
Korsakov, Cui, Balakirev, and Moussorgsky ) . 

R.C. What was Rimsky-Korsakov's attitude to Brahms, and 
when did you yourself first encounter Brahms's mu- 

LS. I remember reading the notice of Brahms's death in 
New Time (the Saint Petersburg conservative news- 
paper; I subscribed to it for Rozanov's articles ) and 


Conversations with Igor Stravinsky 

the impression it made on me. I know that at least 
three years prior to it I had played quartets and 
symphonies by the Hamburg master. 

Brahms was the discovery of my "uncle" Alexander 
Ielatchich, husband of my mother's sister Sophie. This 
gentleman, who had an important role in my early 
development, was a civil service general and a 
wealthy man. He was a passionate musical amateur 
who would spend days at a time playing the piano. 
Two of his five sons were musical, too, and one of them 
or myself was always playing four-hand music with 
him. I remember going through a Brahms quartet 
with him this way in my twelfth year. Uncle Alex- 
ander was an admirer of Moussorgsky and as such he 
had little use for Rimsky-Korsakov. His house was 
just around the corner from Rimsky's, however, and 
I would often go from one to the other, finding it 
difficult to keep a balance between them. 

Rimsky did not like Brahms. He was no Wagnerite 
either, but his admiration for Liszt kept him on the 
Wagner-Liszt side of the partisanship. 

R.C. What opinion did you have of Moussorgsky when you 
were Rimsky-Korsakov's student? Do you remember 
anything your father may have said about him? How 
do you consider him today? 

I.S. I have very little to say about Moussorgsky in con- 
nection with my student years under Rimsky-Kor- 
sakov. At that time, being influenced by the master 
who recomposed almost the whole work of Moussorg- 
sky, I repeated what was usually said about his "big 
talent" and "poor musicianship," and about the "im- 
portant services" rendered by Rimsky to his "em- 
barrassing" and "unpresentable" scores. Very soon I 


About Musicians and Others 

realized the partiality of this kind of mind, however, 
and changed my attitude toward Moussorgsky. This 
was before my contact with the French composers, 
who, of course, were all fiercely opposed to Rimsky's 
"transcriptions/' It was too obvious, even to an in- 
fluenced mind, that Rimsky's Meyerbeerization of 
Moussorgsky's "technically imperfect" music could no 
longer be tolerated. 

As to my own feeling (although I have little con- 
tact with Moussorgsky's music today), I think that in 
spite of his limited technical means and "awkward 
writing" his original scores always show infinitely 
more true musical interest and genuine intuition than 
the "perfection" of Rimsky's arrangements. My par- 
ents often told me that Moussorgsky was a connoisseur 
of Italian operatic music and that he accompanied 
concert singers in it extremely well. They also said 
that Moussorgsky's manners were always ceremonious 
and that he was the most fastidious of men in his 
personal relations. He was a frequent guest in our 
house at Saint Petersburg. 

R.C. You often conduct Glinka's overtures. Have you al- 
ways been fond of his music? 

I.S. Glinka was the Russian musical hero of my childhood. 
He was always sans reproche, and this is the way I 
still think of him. His music is minor, of course, but 
he is not; all music in Russia stems from him. In 1906, 
shortly after my marriage, I went with my wife and 
Nikolsky, my civics professor at the University of 
Saint Petersburg, to pay a visit of respect to Glinka's 
sister, Ludmilla Shestakova. An old lady of ninety- 
two or ninety-three, she was surrounded by servants 
almost as old as herself and she did not attempt to 


Conversations with Igor Stravinsky 

get up from her chair. She had been the wife of an 
admiral and one addressed her as "Your Excellency ." 
I was thrilled to meet her because she had been very 
close to Glinka. She talked to me about Glinka, about 
my late father whom she had known very well, about 
the Cui-Dargomizhsky circle and its rabid anti-Wag- 
nerism. Afterwards, as a memento of my visit, she 
sent me a silver leaf of edelweiss. 

R.C. Did you ever meet Balakirev? 

I.S. I saw him once, standing with his pupil Liapunov, 
at a concert in the Saint Petersburg Conservatory. 
He was a large man, bald, with a Kalmuck head and 
the shrewd, sharp-eyed look of Lenin. He was not 
greatly admired musically at this time. It was 1904 
or 1905, and politically, because of his orthodoxy, 
the liberals considered him a hypocrite. His reputa- 
tion as a pianist was firmly established by numerous 
pupils— however, all of them, like Balakirev himself, 
ardent Lisztians; whereas Rimsky-Korsakov kept a 
portrait of Wagner over his desk, Balakirev had one 
of Liszt. I pitied Balakirev because he suffered from 
cruel fits of depression. 

R.C. You do not mention in your Autobiography whether 
you attended Rimsky-Korsakov's funeral? 

I.S. I did not mention it because it was one of the un- 
happiest days of my life. But I was there and I will 
remember Rimsky in his coffin as long as memory is. 
He looked so very beautiful I could not help crying. 
His widow, seeing me, came up to me and said, "Why 
so unhappy? We still have Glazunov." It was the 
crudest remark I have ever heard, and I have never 
hated again as I did in that moment. 


During a recording session. (Columbia Records Photo) 

At Wiesbaden. 

A family portrait. 

Lausanne, 1914. 

- ;iiir 


Tete de Picasso que je n'ai pas reussi.' 

A sketch by Picasso. 


With his children in Morges, Switzerland, 1915. 
With Diaghilev in Seville, 1921. 


\ mm ~V $ 




Clarens, Switzerland, 1913. 

Stravinsky and Rimsky-Korsakov at the teacher's home. 


R.C. What were Diaghilev's powers of musical judgment? 
What, for example, was his response to Le Sacre du 
Printemps when he first heard it? 

LS. Diaghilev did not have so much a good musical 
judgment as an immense flair for recognizing the 
potentiality of success in a piece of music or work 
of art in general. In spite of his surprise when I 
played him the beginning of the Sacre ( Les Augur es 
Printanieres) at the piano, in spite of his at first ironic 
attitude to the long line of repeated chords, he quickly 
realized that the reason was something other than 
my inability to compose more diversified music; he 
realized at once the seriousness of my new musical 
speech, its importance, and the advantage of capi- 
talizing on it. That, it seems to me, is what he thought 
on first hearing the Sacre. 

R.C. Was the musical performance of the first Sacre du 
Printemps reasonably correct? Do you recall any- 
thing more about that night of May 29, 1913, beyond 
what you have already written? 

LS. I was sitting in the fourth or fifth row on the right 
and the image of Monteux's back is more vivid in 
my mind today than the picture of the stage. He stood 
there apparently impervious and as nerveless as a 
crocodile. It is still almost incredible to me that he 
actually brought the orchestra through to the end. I 
left my seat when the heavy noises began— light noise 
had started from the very beginning— and went back- 
stage behind Nijinsky in the right wing. Nijinsky 
stood on a chair, just out of view of the audience, 


Conversations with Igor Stravinsky 

shouting numbers to the dancers. I wondered what 
on earth these numbers had to do with the music, for 
there are no "thirteens" and "seventeens" in the metri- 
cal scheme of the score. 

From what I heard of the musical performance it 
was not bad. Sixteen full rehearsals had given the 
orchestra at least some security. After the "perform- 
ance" we were excited, angry, disgusted, and . . . 
happy. I went with Diaghilev and Nijinsky to a res- 
taurant. So far from weeping and reciting Pushkin 
in the Bois de Boulogne as the legend is, Diaghilev's 
only comment was "Exactly what I wanted." He cer- 
tainly looked contented. No one could have been 
quicker to understand the publicity value, and he 
immediately understood the good thing that had hap- 
pened in that respect. Quite probably he had already 
thought about the possibility of such a scandal when 
I first played him the score, months before, in the 
east corner ground room of the Grand Hotel in 

K.C.Had you ever planned a Russian "liturgical ballet?" 
If so, did any of it become Les Noces? 

I.S. No, that "liturgical ballet" was entirely Diaghilev's 
idea. He knew that a Russian church spectacle in a 
Paris theater would be enormously successful. He had 
wonderful ikons and costumes he wished to show and 
he kept pestering me to give him music. Diaghilev was 
not really religious, not really a believer, I suspect, 
but only a deeply superstitious man. He wasn't at all 
shocked by the idea of the church in the theater. I 
began to conceive Les Noces, and its form was already 
clear in my mind from about the beginning of 1914. 
At the time of Sarajevo I was in Clarens. I needed 
Kireievsky's book of Russian folk poetry, from which 


About Musicians and Others 

I had made my libretto, and I determined to go to 
Kiev, which was the only place where I knew I could 
get it. I took the train to Oustiloug, our summer home 
in Volhynia, in July 1914. After a few days there I 
went on to Warsaw and Kiev where I found the book. 
I regret that on this last trip, my last view of Russia, I 
did not see the Vydubitsky monastery which I knew 
and loved. On the return trip the border police were 
already very tense. 

I arrived in Switzerland only a few days before 
the war— thanking my stars. Incidentally, Kireievsky 
had asked Pushkin to send him his collection of folk 
verse, and Pushkin sent him some verses with a note 
reading, "some of these are my own verses; can you 
tell the difference?' , Kireievsky could not and took 
them all for his book, so perhaps a line of Pushkin's 
is in Les Noces. 



R.C. Of your early contemporaries, to whom do you owe 
the most? Debussy? Do you think Debussy changed 
from his contact with you? 

LS. I was handicapped in my earliest years by influences 
that restrained the growth of my composer's tech- 
nique. I refer to the Saint Petersburg Conservatory's 
formalism, from which, however— and fortunately— 
I was soon free. But the musicians of my generation 
and I myself owe the most to Debussy. 

I don't think there was a change in Debussy as a 
result of our contact. After reading his friendly and 
commendatory letters to me ( he liked Petroushka very 
much) I was puzzled to find quite a different feeling 
concerning my music in some of his letters to his 
musical friends of the same period. Was it duplicity, 
or was he annoyed at his incapacity to digest the mu- 
sic of the Sacre when the younger generation enthusi- 
astically voted for it? This is difficult to judge now, at 
a distance of more than forty years. 





Saturday, 10th April 1913 
(Letter sent to me in Oustiloug) 

Dear Friend, 

Thanks to you I have passed an enjoyable Easter vaca- 
tion in the company of Petroushka, the terrible Moor, 
and the delicious Ballerina. I can imagine that you spent 
incomparable moments with the three puppets . . . and I 
don't know many things more valuable than the section 
you call "Tour de passe-passe" . . . There is in it a kind 
of sonorous magic, a mysterious transformation of mechani- 
cal souls which become human by a spell of which, until 
now, you seem to be the unique inventor. 

Finally, there is an orchestral infallibility that I have 
found only in Parsifal. You will understand what I mean 
of course. You will go much further than Petroushka, it 
is certain, but you can be proud already of the achieve- 
ment of this work. 

I am sorry, please accept my belated thanks in acknowl- 
edging your kind gift. But the dedication gives me much 
too high a place in the mastery of that music which we 
both serve with the same disinterested zeal . . . Unhap- 
pily, at this time, I was surrounded with sick people! 
Especially my wife who has been suffering for many long 
days ... I even had to be the "man about the house" and 
I will admit to you at once that I have no talent for it. 

Since the good idea of performing you again is talked 
about, I look forward with pleasure to see you soon here. 


Conversations with Igor Stravinsky 

Please don't forget the way to my house where everyone 
is anxious to see you. 

Very affectionately your 
Claude Debussy 



8th of November 1913 

Don't fall to the ground, Dear Friend, it is only me!!! 
Of course, if we begin, you wishing to understand and I 
to explain why I haven't written yet, our hair will fall out. 

And then, something marvellous is happening here: 
at least once a day everyone talks about you. Your friend 
Chouchou * has composed a fantasy on Petroushka which 
would make tigers roar ... I have threatened her with 
torture, but she goes on, insisting that you will "find it 
very beautiful." So, how could you suppose that we are 
not thinking of you? 

Our reading at the piano of he Sacre du Printemps, 
at Laloy's * * house, is always present in my mind. It haunts 
me like a beautiful nightmare and I try, in vain, to reinvoke 
the terrific impression. 

* Debussy's daughter Emma-Claude, who died one year after her 

* * Which Louis Laloy, the critic, incorrectly attributes to the spring 
of 1913. What most impressed me at the time and what is still most 
memorable from the occasion of the sight reading of he Sacre was 
Debussy's brilliant piano playing. Recently, while listening to his En 
blanc et noir (one of which pieces is dedicated to me), I was struck 
by the way in which the extraordinary quality of this pianism had 
directed the thought of Debussy the composer. 


About Musicians and Others 

That is why I wait for the stage performance like a 
greedy child impatient for promised sweets. 

As soon as I have a good proof copy of Jeux I will send 
it to you ... I would love to have your opinion on this 
"badinage in three parts": while speaking of Jeux, you 
were surprised that I chose this title to which you pre- 
ferred The Park. I beg you to believe that Jeux is better, 
first because it is more appropriate, and then because it 
more nearly invokes the "horrors" that occur among these 
three characters. * 

When are you coming to Paris, so one may at last play 
good music? 

Very affectionately from us three to you and your wife. 

Your very old friend 
Claude Debussy 


15th May 1913 

Dear Friend, 

My telephone doesn't work and I fear you have tried to 
call without success. If you have seen Nijinsky and if he 
signed the papers please give them to the chauffeur. It is 
urgent that they are at the Societe des Auteurs before five 
o'clock. Thank you, your old Debussy. 

(This note, brought by Debussy's chauffeur, refers to forms from 
the Societe des Auteurs Debussy had given me to give Nijinsky, 
the co-stage author of Jeux. I was seeing Nijinsky every day at this 
time, and Debussy was only sure of reaching him through me. ) 

* Debussy was in close contact with me during the composition of 
Jeux and he frequently consulted me about problems of orchestra- 
tion. I still consider Jeux as an orchestral masterpiece, though I think 
some of the music is "trop Lalique." 


Conversations with Igor Stravinsky 


18th of August 1913 

Dear Old Stravinsky, 

Excuse me for being late in thanking you for a work 
whose dedication is priceless to me. * I have been taken 
with an attack of "expulsive gingivitis." It is ugly and 
dangerous and one could wake up in the morning to dis- 
cover one's teeth falling out. Then, of course, they could 
be strung into a necklace. Perhaps this is not much consola- 

The music from the Roi des Etoiles is still extraordinary. 
It is probably Plato's "harmony of the eternal spheres" 
( but don't ask me which page of his ) . And, except on Sirius 
or Aldebaran, I do not foresee performances of this cantata 
for planets'. As for our more modest Earth, a performance 
would be lost in the abyss. 

I hope that you have recovered. Take care, music needs 
you. Kindly convey my respects to your charming mother 
and best wishes to your wife. 

Your old faithful 
Claude Debussy 

* I had dedicated my short cantata he Roi des Etoiles (1911) to 
Debussy. He was obviously puzzled by the music and nearly right in 
predicting it to be unperformable— it has had only a few perform- 
ances in very recent years and remains in one sense my most "radical" 
and difficult composition. 


About Musicians and Others 


9 November 2913 

Dear Stravinsky, 

Because one still belongs to certain traditions, one won- 
ders why one's letter is not answered . . . ! But the value 
of the music I have received * is more important because 
it contains something affirmative and victorious. Naturally, 
people who are a little bit embarrassed by your growing 
mastery have not neglected to spread very discordant ru- 
mours—and if you are not already dead it is not their 
fault. I have never believed in a rumour— is it necessary 
to tell you this?— No! Also, it is not necessary to tell you 
of the joy I had to see my name associated with a very 
beautiful thing that with the passage of time will be more 
beautiful still. 

For me, who descend the other slope of the hill but 
keep, however, an intense passion for music, for me it is a 
special satisfaction to tell you how much you have en- 
larged the boundaries of the permissible in the empire 
of sound. 

Forgive me for using these pompous words, but they 
exactly express my thought. 

You have probably heard about the melancholy end of 
the Theatre des Champs Elysees? It is really a pity that 
the only place in Paris where one had started to play music 
honestly could not be successful. May I ask you, dear 
friend, what you propose to do about it? I saw Diaghilev 
at Boris Godunov, the only performance it had, and he 
said nothing ... If you can give me some news without 

* I had sent him the score of he Sacre du Printemps. 


Conversations with Igor Stravinsky 

being indiscreet, do not hesitate. In any case are you com- 
ing to Paris? "How many questions" I hear you saying . . . 
If you are annoyed to answer. . . . 

This very moment I received your postcard— and I see 
by it, dear friend, that you never received my letter. It 
is very regrettable for me— you are probably very angry 
with me. Perhaps I wrote the address incorrectly. And 
also, Oustiloug is so far away. I will not go to Lausanne— 
for some complicated reasons which are of no interest to 
you. This is one more reason for you to come to Paris— to 
have the joy of seeing each other. 

Know that I am going to Moscow the first of December. 
I gather you will not be there? Believe me that for this 
reason my journey will be a little more painful. I wrote to 
Koussevitzky asking him for some necessary information- 
he does not answer. 

As for the "Societe de la Musique Actuelle" I want to do 
my best to be agreeable and to thank them for the honour 
they want to bestow on me. Only I don't know if I will have 
enough time to stay for the concert. 

My wife and Chouchou send you their affectionate 
thoughts and ask not to forget to give the same to your 

Always your old devoted 
Claude Debussy 




November ij, 1913. 
Dear Stravinsky. You have acquired the habit since child- 
hood to play with the calendar and I confess that your 


About Musicians and Others 

last card confused me. At the same time I received a tele- 
gram from Koussevitzky telling me that I am expected in 
Moscow December 3 (new style). As the concert in St. 
Petersburg is the 10th you can see that I will not have 
time to do anything. Are you recovered from your cold? 
I heartily hope so. If you have nothing better to do I ad- 
vise you to go to Moscow. It is a marvellous city and you 
probably don't know it very well. You will meet there 
Claude Debussy, French musician, who loves you very 

Claude Debussy 



October 24th, 1915 

First of all, dearest friend, it is a joy to hear from you at 
last ... I had some news from your friends, who, I don't 
know why, kept the state of your health and your residence 
a mystery. 

We are all doing somewhat better, or in other words we 
are like the majority of the French people. We have our 
share of sorrows, of spiritual and domestic difficulties. 
But this is natural now that Europe and the rest of the 
world think it necessary to participate in this tragic "con- 
cert." Why don't the inhabitants of Mars join the fray? 

As you wrote to me "they will be unable to make us join 
their madness." All the same there is something higher 
than brute force; to "close the windows" on beauty is 
against reason and destroys the true meaning of life. 

But one must open one's eyes and ears to other sounds 
when the noise of the cannon has subsided! The world 


Conversations with Igor Stravinsky 

must be rid of this bad seed. We have all to kill the mi- 
crobes of false grandeur, of organized ugliness, which we 
did not always realize was simply weakness. 

You will be needed in the war against those other, and 
just as mortal, gases for which there are no masks. 

Dear Stravinsky, you are a great artist. Be with all your 
strength a great Russian artist. It is so wonderful to be 
of one's country, to be attached to one's soil like the 
humblest of peasants! And when the foreigner treads upon 
it how bitter all the nonsense about internationalism seems. 

In these last years, when I smelled "austro-boches" 
miasma in art, I wished for more authority to shout my 
worries, warn of the dangers we so credulously approached. 
Did no one suspect these people of plotting the destruction 
of our art as they had prepared the destruction of our 
countries? And this ancient national hate that will end 
only with the last German! But will there ever be a 'last 
German?" For I am convinced that German soldiers beget 
German soldiers. 

As for Nocturnes, Doret (the Swiss composer) is right, 
I made many modifications. Unhappily, they are published 
by a publisher, Fromont, Colysee Street, with whom I am 
no more associated. Another trouble is that there are no 
more copyists, at this moment, capable of doing this deli- 
cate work. I shall search further and try to find a way to 
satisfy M. Ansermet. 

It must be confessed that music is in a bad situation 
here ... It only serves charitable purposes, and we must 
not blame it for that. I remained here for more than a year 
without being able to write any music. Only during these 
last three months spent at the seaside with friends have I 
recovered the faculty of musical thinking. Unless one is 
personally involved in it, war is a state of mind contra- 
dictory to thought. That Olympian egotist Goethe is the 


About Musicians and Others 

only one who could work, it is said, the day the French 
army came into Weimar . . . Then there was Pythagoras 
killed by a soldier at the moment when he was going to 
solve God knows what problem? 

Recently I have written nothing but pure music, twelve 
piano etudes and two sonatas for different instruments, in 
our old form which, very graciously, did not impose any 
tetralogical auditory efforts. 

And you, dear friend, what have you been doing? Don't 
for heavens sake think you have to answer that ques- 
tion. I ask not out of vulgar curiosity but in pure affection. 

And your wife and children? Have you worries about 

My wife suffered badly from her eyes and from an un- 
bearable neuralgia-rheumatism. Chouchou has a cold; she 
makes it into something very serious by the attention she 
pays to her little person. 

It is very difficult to know when we will see each other 
and so we have only the weak resource of "words". . . . 
Well, believe me your always devoted old 

Claude Debussy 
All our affectionate thoughts to your dear family. I have 
received news from the "Societe des Auteurs" saying that 
you had chosen me as godfather for your entry in that 
society. I thank you. 



R.C. You have said that Jacques Riviere, as editor of the 
Nouvelle Revue Frangaise, was the first critic to 
have had an intuition about your music. What were 
his musical capabilities? 

I.S. At this distance I am not really able to answer that, 
for though I knew Riviere well before the 1914 war 
I never saw him again after it, and in forty-five 
years memories change color. However, I can say 
that at the time I considered his criticism of my bal- 
lets to be literary, inspired more by the whole specta- 
cle than by my music. He was musical, certainly, and 
his musical tastes were genuine and cultivated, but 
whether he was capable of following the musical argu- 
ment of he Sacre du Printemps I can no longer judge. 
I remember Jacques Riviere as a tall, blond, intel- 
lectually energetic youth, a passionate balletomane, 
and at the same time a man with a deep religious 
vocation. He came to Geneva from time to time when 
I lived there, and these meetings with him always 
afforded me much pleasure. He lived in semi-retire- 
ment after the war, his health ruined by his years as a 
prisoner of the Germans, and he died still young, a 
broken man. 

Rereading his letters I am struck (a) by the mal- 
ady of the French about theater tickets; they will 
do absolutely anything to get tickets except buy them; 
if Riviere was so vivement interested in the Night- 
ingale why didn't he go to the guichet and exchange 
a few francs for them? and (b) by the evidence in 
the fourth letter of how quickly fashion had turned 
against Debussy in the year after his death. 






February 4, 1914 

My dear Stravinsky, 

I am rather late in telling you how grateful I am. But I 
have been near you in my thoughts all these days as I have 
started to put on paper some ideas about the 'Nightingale.* 

You were very kind to have sent these two cards to 
Gallimard and to me. They gave us great pleasure. 

I intend to come to your concert * * Saturday and per- 
haps I will be able to shake your hand. 

Believe me, my dear Stravinsky. . . . 

Jacques Riviere 

*I was in Leysin in January 1914 completing the Nightingale. 
Cocteau came there in the hope of persuading me to collaborate 
with him on a work to be called David, and Diaghilev followed him 
a few days later with the express intention of discouraging this same 
project. Diaghilev-Cocteau relations were not ideal at the time, any- 
way, as Diaghilev could not stand Cocteau's fondness for Nijinsky, 
but Diaghilev's excuse for the trip was the Nightingale. Until then 
he had ignored the existence of this opera (out of jealousy— it had 
been commissioned by a Moscow theater) but recently the people 
who were to produce it had declared bankruptcy, and he was now 
very interested: I had been paid by them (10,000 rubles, a huge 
sum of money for 1909), and he could have the opera for nothing. 
We returned to Paris where I played the Nightingale for Ravel and 
a group of friends. Among these was Jacques Riviere. 

** I have no recollection of this concert. 


Conversations with Igor Stravinsky 



May 25th, 1914 
Dear Sir, 

Is it extremely indiscreet of me to ask you for two or 
three tickets to the premiere of the Nightingale? I take 
this liberty only because yesterday evening I heard that 
a large number of complimentary tickets are available. 
You may well imagine how much I want my wife to hear 
this work from which I myself anticipate so much pleas- 
ure. * But if it is impossible please do not hesitate to re- 
fuse me. * * If you are able to get tickets only for the second 
performance I certainly will not refuse them though of 
course I would prefer to attend the premiere. Yesterday I 
again heard the music of Petroushka and with profound 

I beg you, dear sir, to excuse my importunity and to 
believe in my friendship and sympathy. 

Jacques Rwiere 
15 rue froidevaux, 
paris xtv 



May 1914 
Dear Sir, 

You are exceedingly kind to have thought of me and I 
thank you with all my heart. Unfortunately, I had gone 
away the moment your telegram arrived and this is the 

* He had attended some of the rehearsals. 

** Sic. 


About Musicians and Others 

reason why I did not use the place you offered me in your 
loge. I succeeded in entering the Opera, however, but the 
conditions under which I heard the Nightingale were so 
unfavourable that I am not yet able to judge it well. But 
already I see that it promises me beautiful discoveries for 
the next performances. 

Again thank you, dear sir, and please believe in my 
admiration and my sympathy. 

Jacques Riviere 



April 6, iqiq 

My dear Stravinsky, 

I asked Auberjonois * to tell you how much pleasure 
your letter gave me. Probably he has done so, but I thank 
you most sincerely again. 

It is another matter I want to talk to you about today, 
however. Perhaps you already know that my friends have 
decided to entrust me with the direction of the Nouvelle 
Revue Frangaise, which will reappear June l. It is an hon- 
our of which I am very proud, but it is also a heavy burden 
and a source of grave preoccupations. 

I intend to direct the attention of the magazine to the 
anti-impressionist, anti-symbolist, and anti-Debussy move- 
ments that are becoming more and more precise and 
threatening to take the form and force of a vast new cur- 
rent. I would be extremely happy if you think you could 
show us in an article (you may decide the dimensions of it 

* The late Swiss painter, Ren6 Auberjonois, who designed the first 
production of my Histoire du Soldat. 


Conversations with Igor Stravinsky 

yourself) your present ideas on music and the meaning of 
the work you are devoting yourself to at the moment. 

But do not think you have been forgotten here. Everyone 
I see talks about you constantly. The influence of Pe- 
troushka and Sacre and even of your recent works on the 
younger musicians is obvious. An article by you will be 
read with curiosity and sympathy everywhere in the world. 
To make it easier for you, you could write it in Russian. 
If you have no one around to translate it, I think I can 
take charge of that, with the condition that the manu- 
script you send me is very legibly written. Of course, I 
will submit my translation to you for rectification. 

I do not need to tell you that without promising moun- 
tains of gold, I will assure you of our best possible fee for 
your work. 

Please forgive me for having fulfilled only one part of 
the requests you charged me with when we last saw each 
other in Geneva. Most of the people you asked me to see 
were not in Paris when I arrived there, however, and I 
myself was so long absent that by the time I finally re- 
turned some of the requests were out of date. 

I will confidently await your answer hoping that it will 
not be otherwise than favourable, and with this conviction 
I beg you my dear Stravinsky to believe in my deepest 

Jacques Riviere 
P.S. Do not forget to give my best wishes to Ramuz ** 
and Auberjonois. If it will be difficult for you to send me 
your manuscript because of the Russian, please inform me 
and I will ask someone I know at the Foreign Affairs 
Office to facilitate the sending, and obtain the necessary 
authorization for you. 

** C. F. Ramuz, the Swiss novelist and co-librettist with me of 
V Histoire du Soldat. 

About Musicians and Others 



April 21, igig 

My dear Stravinsky, 

Of course your letter was disappointing as it deprives 
me of your collaboration; but it delighted me also because 
I think as you do, that a real creator should not lose his 
time discoursing about the tendencies and consequences 
of his art. His work must be self-explanatory. However, if 
one day the desire overtakes you to write not about your- 
self, but about others, about Debussy for instance, or Rus- 
sian contemporary music, or some other subject, then think 
about me and do not forget that our pages are always open 
to you. 

With friendship, your 
Jacques Riviere 
P.S. What is this new "Suite from the Firebird," a ballet?* 

* My 1919 version of the Firebird suite, which I think he might have 



R.C. Have you any notion where the manuscript of yours 
and Ravel's instrumentation of Khovanshchina might 

I.S. I left it in Oustiloug on my last trip to Russia and 
therefore assume it to be lost or destroyed. (I wish 
someone traveling in Volhynia and passing through 
Oustiloug would investigate whether my house still 
stands; not long ago some kind person sent me a 
photograph of it but did not mention whether it had 
survived the Nazi invasion, and I could not tell if the 
photo was pre- or post-war. ) However, I feel certain 
that Bessel had already engraved it in Russia just 
before the [1914] war. The plates should exist, there- 
fore, with the inheritors of Bessel's Russian firm. I 
remember a money struggle with Bessel, who said 
we were demanding too much and argued that 
"Moussorgsky received only a fraction of what you 
are asking." I replied that because they had given 
Moussorgsky precisely nothing, because they had 
succeeded in starving the poor man, was the greater 
reason to give us more. 

The idea of asking Ravel to collaborate with me on 
an instrumentation of Khovanshchina was mine. I 
was afraid not to be ready for the spring season of 
1913 and I needed help. Unfortunately, however, 
Diaghilev cared less about establishing a good instru- 
mentation of the opera and rescuing it from Rimsky- 
Korsakov than about our version as a new vehicle for 
Chaliapin. That idiot from every nonvocal point of 
view, and from some of these, could not realize the 


About Musicians and Others 

value of such instrumentation. He declined to sing, 
and the project was abandoned, though we had al- 
ready done considerable work. I orchestrated Shak- 
lovity's famous and banal aria, the final chorus, and 
some other music I no longer remember. Moussorgsky 
had only sketched— really only projected— the final 
chorus; I began with Moussorgsky's original and com- 
posed it from Moussorgsky, ignoring Rimsky-Korsa- 

Ravel came to Clarens to live with me, and we 
worked together there in March-April 1913. At that 
same time also, I composed my Japanese Lyrics 
and Ravel his Trois Poemes de Mallarme which I 
still prefer to any other music of his. I remember an 
excursion I made with Ravel from Clarens to Varese, 
near Lago Maggiore, to buy Varese paper. The town 
was very crowded and we could not find two hotel 
rooms or even two beds, so we slept together in one. 

Ravel? When I think of him, for example, in rela- 
tion to Satie, he appears quite ordinary. His musical 
judgment was very acute, however, and I would say 
that he was the only musician who immediately un- 
derstood Le Sacre du Printemps. He was dry and 
reserved, and sometimes little darts were hidden in 
his remarks, but he was always a very good friend 
to me. He drove a truck or ambulance in the war, as 
you know, and I admired him for it, because at his age 
and with his name he could have had an easier place 
—or done nothing. He looked rather pathetic in his 
uniform; so small, he was two or three inches smaller 
than I am. 

I think Ravel knew when he went into the hospital 
for his last operation that he would go to sleep for 
the last time. He said to me, "They can do what they 


Conversations with Igor Stravinsky 

want with my cranium as long as the ether works." 
It didn't work, however, and the poor man felt the 
incision. I did not visit him in this hospital, and my 
last view of him was in a funeral home. The top part 
of his skull was still bandaged. His final years were 
cruel, for he was gradually losing his memory and 
some of his co-ordinating powers, and he was, of 
course, quite aware of it. Gogol died screaming and 
Diaghilev died laughing (and singing La Boheme, 
which he loved genuinely and as much as any music), 
but Ravel died gradually. That is the worst. 




13 December iqi^ 

Vieux— it's a long time since I've had any sensational news 
about your health. Three weeks ago I heard about your 
sudden death, but was not stricken by it as the same morn- 
ing we received a postcard from you. 

Delage * surely told you that your Japanese will be 
performed January 14th together with his Hindus and my 
Mallarmeans . . . We count on your presence. 

I will be in London in three days and hope to hear talk 
about the Sacre. 

And the Nightingale, will he soon sing? 

My respectful compliments to Mme. Stravinsky, kiss 
the children, and believe in the affection of your devoted 

Maurice Ravel 



14 February 1914 

Dear Igor, 
I hear from Mme. Casella * * that Madame Stravinsky 

* Maurice Delage, the composer, a good friend to me at this time. 
My Three Japanese Lyrics are dedicated to Maurice Delage, Florent 
Schmitt, and Maurice Ravel respectively. 

** The composer Alfredo Casella and his wife were living in Paris 
at this time. 


Conversations with Igor Stravinsky 

went to Leysin. I hope it is only a precaution. I beg you, 
reassure me by a word. 

I have taken refuge here in the country of my birthplace 
to work, as work was becoming quite impossible in Paris. 
Kiss the children for me, and present to Mme. Stravinsky 
my respectful compliments. Believe in the affection of your 

Maurice Ravel 



26 September, 1Q14 

Give me news of yourself, mon vieux. What becomes of 
you in all this? 

Edouard * enlisted as a driver. I was not so lucky. They 
did not need me. I hope that when they have re-examined 
all the discharged soldiers, and after all the measures I 
will take, to be back in Paris, if I have the means. 

The thought that I would go away forced me to do five 
months' work in five weeks. I have finished my Trio. But I 
was obliged to abandon the works I hoped to finish this 
winter; La Cloche Engloutie!! and a symphonic poem: 
Wien!!! ** But, of course, that is now an untimely subject. 
How is your wife? and the little ones? Write me quickly, 
mon vieux. If you only knew how painful it is to be far 
from everything! 

Affectionate souvenirs to all. No news from the Benois. 
What has become of them? 

Maurice Ravel 

* His brother. 

* * Which became La Valse. 


About Musicians and Others 


November 14, 1914 

Cher vieux, 

I am back in Paris . . . and it does not suit me at all. 
I want to go away more than ever. I cannot work any more. 
When we arrived Maman had to stay in bed. Now she 
is up, but she has to keep to an albumin-free diet. Her age 
and her anxieties are of course the cause of this condition. 
No news from Edouard since the 28th October; a whole 
month and we do not know what has happened to him. 

Delage is now in Fontainebleau. From time to time he 
is sent on a commission somewhere. Schmitt *, who was 
bored to death in Toul, finally obtained permission to go 
to the front. The Godebskis * * are still at Carantec. I still 
haven't seen Misia. 

Remember me to your family, cher vieux. Write to me 
very soon I beg you. Believe in my brotherly friendship. 

Maurice Ravel 


December 19, 1914 

It's settled: you come and sleep (uncomfortably) in the 
lumber room, which was the bedroom of my brother, and 

* Florent Schmitt. 

°* Cipa Godebski, with his wife and children, Jean and Mimi. The 
Godebskis (especially Misia Godebski Sert) were good friends of 
Ravel and me. The issue of L'Oeil for Christmas 1956 contains a 
history of this extraordinary family. 


Conversations with Igor Stravinsky 

which was transformed into a Persian room for you. But 
come quickly, otherwise you will not find me here any 
more. I will be working as a driver. It was the only means 
for me to get to the city, where I had to see Daphnis et 
Chloe. You don't give me news from your brother. I hope 
he is completely recovered. Try to hasten your arrival. 
Our affectionate thoughts to you. 
Maurice Ravel 


January 2, 1915 
Ainsi, vieux. Everything was prepared to give you, our 
ally, a proper welcome. The Persian room with voiles from 
Genoa, prints from Japan, toys from China, in short a 
synthesis of the "Russian Season." Yes, there was even a 
mechanical Nightingale— and you are not coming. . . . 
Ah, the caprice of the Slav! Is it thanks to this caprice 
that I received a note from Szanto *, who is delighted to 
know that I will be in Switzerland at the end of January? I 
wrote you that I will soon go away, but I doubt that they 
will send me in your direction. 

I wait for news from your brother and from you and all 
your family. Meanwhile, accept all our affectionate wishes 
for the New Year (New Style). 

Maurice Ravel 

* Pianist and composer, acquaintance of all of us, he made a piano 
transcription of the Chinese March in my Nightingale. 


About Musicians and Others 

September 16, igig 

Dear Igor, 

I am heartbroken that I did not see you. Why didn't 
you phone Durand * ? They would have given you my 
address and my telephone number (Saint Cloud 2.33). 
Well, I hope to meet you soon, perhaps even in Morges, 
because I will try to go there to see my uncle before the 
end of the fall. I continue to do nothing. I am probably 
empty. Give me your news soon and if you go through 
Paris again try to be a little bit cleverer and do a little 

To everybody my affectionate greetings, 

Maurice Ravel 


June 26, 1923 

Dear Igor, 

Your Noces are marvellous! And I regret that I couldn't 
hear and see more performances of them. But it seemed 
already unwise to come the other evening; my foot was 
again very swollen and I now have to go back and rest 
again until next Sunday at least. Thank you, mon vieux, 

Maurice Ravel 

* The publishers. 



R.C. What do you recall of Erik Satie? 

I.S. He was certainly the oddest person I have ever 
known, but the most rare and consistently witty 
person too. I had a great liking for him, and he ap- 
preciated my friendliness, I think, and liked me in 
return. With his pince-nez, umbrella, and galoshes he 
looked a perfect schoolmaster, but he looked just as 
much like one without these accouterments. He spoke 
very softly, hardly opening his mouth, but he deliv- 
ered each word in an inimitable, precise way. His 
handwriting recalls his speech to me: it is exact, 
drawn. His manuscripts were like him also, which is 
to say, as the French say, fin. No one ever saw him 
wash— he had a horror of soap. Instead he was forever 
rubbing his fingers with pumice. He was always very 
poor, poor by conviction, I think. He lived in a poor 
section and his neighbors seemed to appreciate his 
coming among them: he was greatly respected by 
them. His apartment was also very poor. It did not 
have a bed but only a hammock. In winter Satie 
would fill bottles with hot water and put them flat 
in a row underneath his hammock. It looked like 
some strange kind of marimba. I remember once when 
someone had promised him some money he replied: 
"Monsieur, what you have said did not fall on a deaf 

His sarcasm depended on French classic usages. 
The first time I heard Socrate, at a seance where he 
played it for a few of us, he turned around at the end 


About Musicians and Others 

and said in perfect bourgeoisie, "Voila, messieurs, 

I met him in 1913, I believe; at any rate, I photo- 
graphed him with Debussy in that year. Debussy in- 
troduced him to me and Debussy "protected" and 
remained a good friend to him. In those early years 
he played many of his compositions for me at the 
piano. ( I don't think he knew much about instruments 
and I prefer Socrate as he played it to the clumsy 
orchestra score.) I always thought them literarily 
limited. The titles are literary, and whereas Klee's 
titles are literary, they do not limit the painting; 
Satie's do, I think, and they are very much less amus- 
ing the second time. But the trouble with Socrate 
is that it is metrically boring. Who can stand that 
much regularity? All the same, the music of Socrates' 
death is touching and dignifying in a unique way. 
Satie's own sudden and mysterious death— shortly 
after Socrate— touched me too. He had been turned to- 
wards religion near the end of his life and he started 
going to Communion. I saw him after church one 
morning, and he said in that extraordinary manner of 
his: "Alors, fai un peu communique ce matin." He 
became ill very suddenly and died quickly and 



R.C.Will you describe your meeting with Schoenberg in 
Berlin in 1912? Did you speak German with him? 
Was he cordial or aloof? Was he an able conductor 
of Pierrot? Webern was present at the Berlin rehears- 
als of Pierrot; do you have any recollection of him? 
You wrote about the instrumentation of Pierrot but 
not about its use of strict contrapuntal devices or its 
polyphony; how did you feel about these innova- 
tions at the time? 

I.S. Diaghilev invited Schoenberg to hear my ballets, Fire- 
bird and Petroushka, and Schoenberg invited us to 
hear his Pierrot Lunaire. I do not remember whether 
Schoenberg or Scherchen or Webern conducted the 
rehearsals I heard. Diaghilev and I spoke German 
with Schoenberg, and he was friendly and warm, and 
I had the feeling that he was interested in my music, 
especially in Petroushka. It is difficult to recollect 
one's impressions at a distance of forty-five years; but 
this I remember very clearly: the instrumental sub- 
stance of Pierrot Lunaire impressed me immensely. 
And by saying "instrumental" I mean not simply the 
instrumentation of this music but the whole contra- 
puntal and polyphonic structure of this brilliant in- 
strumental masterpiece. Unfortunately I do not re- 
member Webern— though I am sure I did at least 
meet him, in Schoenberg's house in Zehlendorf. Im- 
mediately after the war I received some very cordial 
letters from Schoenberg inquiring about various small 
pieces of mine that he and Webern were preparing 
for performance in his famous Vienna concert series, 


About Musicians and Others 

the Society for Private Performances. Then, in 1925, 
he wrote a very nasty verse about me ( though I almost 
forgive him, for setting it to such a remarkable mirror 
canon). I do not know what had happened in be- 

R.C. And Berg, did you know him? 

LS. I met him only once, in Venice, in September 1934. 
He came to see me in the greenroom at La Fenice, 
where I conducted my Capriccio in a Biennale con- 
cert with my son Soulima at the piano. Although 
it was my first sight of him, and I saw him for only 
a few minutes, I remember I was quite taken by his 
famous charm and subtlety. 

R.C. Has your estimate of Schoenberg and his position 
been affected by the recent publication of his un- 
finished works? 

I.S. His scope is greatly enlarged by them, but I think 
his position remains the same. However, any newly 
revealed work by a master will challenge judgment 
of him in some particular— as Eliot says that Dante's 
minor works are of interest because they are by Dante, 
so anything by Schoenberg, a piece of incunabula 
like the 1897 string Quartet, an arrangement like his 
1900 reduction for two pianos of the Barber of Seville, 
are of interest to us because they are by Schoenberg. 
The most interesting of the unfinished works are the 
three pieces for an ensemble of solo instruments com- 
posed in 1910 or 1911. They force us to reconsider 
the extent of Webern's indebtedness respecting in- 
strumental style and the dimension of the short 
piece. * The last composed of the unfinished works, 

* No. I have heard these pieces several times since. They are 
not much like Webern, and the most memorable of them, the 
third one, is very unlike Webern indeed. 


Conversations with Igor Stravinsky 

the Modern Psalms of 1950-51 show that Schoenberg 
continued to explore new ways and to search for 
new laws of serial music right up to his death. Of 
these posthumous publications Moses und Aron is 
in a category by itself: whereas the other works 
are unfinished, it is unfinished but complete— like 
Kafka stories in which the nature of the subject makes 
an ending in the ordinary sense impossible. Moses 
und Aron is the largest work of Schoenberg's maturity 
and the last he was to write in Europe. It does not af- 
fect our view of his historical role, however. Jacob's 
Ladder, or the hundred bars of it that are in a per- 
formable state, might still do that: * it dates from 
Schoenberg's period of greatest transition, is actually 
the only composition to represent the years 1915-1922. 
Schoenberg's work has too many inequalities for us to 
embrace it as a whole. For example, nearly all of his 
texts are appallingly bad, some of them so bad as to 
discourage performance of the music. Then, too, 
his orchestrations of Bach, Handel, Monn, Loewe, 
Brahms differ from the type of commercial orchestra- 
tion only in the superiority of craftsmanship: his 
intentions are no better. Indeed, it is evident from 
his Handel arrangement that he was unable to ap- 
preciate music of "limited" harmonic range, and I 
have been told that he considered the English vir- 
ginalists and, in fact, any music that did not show 
a "developing harmony," primitive. His expressionism 
is of the na'ivest sort, as, for example, in the directions 
for lighting the Gluckliche Hand; his late tonal works 

* I now find Jacob's Ladder disappointing, and its Sprech- 
stimme choruses less good than the beginning of Die Gluckliche 
Hand. The latter work is in fact, so striking that it robs not only 
Jacob's Ladder but even so late a work as Boulez's Le Visage 
Nuptial of originality. 


About Musicians and Others 

are as dull as the Reger they resemble or the Cesar 
Franck, for the four-note motive in the Ode to Na- 
poleon is like Cesar Franck; and his distinction be- 
tween "inspired melody" and mere "technique" 
("heart" vs. "brain") would be factitious if it weren't 
simply naive, while the example he offers of the 
former, the unison Adagio in his fourth Quartet, 
makes me squirm. We— and I mean the generation 
who are now saying "Webern and me"— must remem- 
ber only the perfect works, the Five Pieces for Or- 
chestra (except for which I could bear the loss of 
the first nineteen opus numbers), Herzgewachse, 
Pierrot, the Serenade, the Variations for orchestra, 
and, for its orchestra, the "Seraphita" song from op. 
22. By these works Schoenberg is among the great 
composers. Musicians will take their bearings from 
them for a great while to come. They constitute, to- 
gether with a few works of not so many other com- 
posers, the true tradition. 

R.C. How do you now esteem Berg's music? 

I.S. If I were able to penetrate the barrier of style (Berg's 
radically alien emotional climate ) I suspect he would 
appear to me as the most gifted constructor in form 
of the composers of this century. He transcends even 
his own most overt modeling. In fact, he is the only 
one to have achieved large-scale development-type 
forms without a suggestion of "neoclassic" dissimula- 
tion. His legacy contains very little on which to build, 
however. He is at the end of a development (and 
form and style are not such independent growths 
that we can pretend to use the one and discard the 
other), whereas Webern, the Sphinx, has bequeathed 
a whole foundation, as well as a contemporary sensi- 
bility and style. Berg's forms are thematic ( in which 


Conversations with Igor Stravinsky 

respect, as in most others, he is Weberns opposite); 
the essence of his work and the thematic structure are 
responsible for the immediacy of one form. However 
complex, however "mathematical" the latter are, 
they are always "free" thematic forms born of "pure 
feeling" and "expression." The perfect work in which 
to study this and, I think, the essential work, with 
Wozzeck, for the study of all of his music— is the 
Three Pieces for Orchestra, op. 6. Berg's personality 
is mature in these pieces, and they seem to me a 
richer and freer expression of his talent than the 
twelve-note serial pieces. When one considers their 
early date— 1914; Berg was twenty-nine— they are 
something of a miracle. I wonder how many musicians 
have discovered them even now, forty years late. 
In many places they suggest the later Berg. The music 
at bar 54 in Reigen is very like the "death" motive 
first heard in Marie's aria in Wozzeck for example. 
So is the drowning music in the opera like the music 
from bar 162 in the Marsch. The waltz and the music 
at bar 50 in Reigen are Wozzeckian, in the manner of 
the second act's Tavern Scene, and the trill music with 
which Reigen ends is like the famous orchestra trill 
at the end of the first act of Wozzeck. The violin solo 
at bar 168 in the Marsch is an adumbration of the 
music of the last pages of Wozzeck, and the rhythmic 
polyphony of the motive at bar 75 in the same piece is 
like a quotation from the opera. There are forecasts 
of the Kammerkonzert too, for instance, in the Nehen- 
stimme figure at bar 55 in Reigen and in the solo violin 
and wind music thereafter. And each of Lulus three 
acts concludes with the same rhythm of chords em- 
ployed near the end of Reigen. 

Mahler dominates rather too much of the Marsch 


About Musicians and Others 

but even that piece is saved by a superb (un-Mahler- 
like) ending that is— I hope I may be forgiven for 
pointing out— dramatically not unlike the ending of 
Petroushka: climax followed by quiet, then a few 
broken phrases in solo instruments, then the final pro- 
test of trumpets; the last bar in the trumpets is one 
of the finest things Berg ever did. The Three Pieces 
for Orchestra must be considered as a whole. They are 
a dramatic whole, and all three of them are related 
thematically (the superb return of the theme of the 
Preludium at bar 160 in the Marsch). The form of 
each individual piece is dramatic also. In my judgment 
the most perfect of these in conception and realization 
is the Preludium. The form rises and falls and it is 
round and unrepeating. It begins and ends in percus- 
sion, and the first notes of the timpani are already 
thematic. Then flute and bassoon state the principal 
rhythmic motive in preparation for the alto trombone 
solo, one of the noblest sounds Berg or anyone else 
ever caused to be heard in an orchestra. Berg's orches- 
tral imagination and orchestral skill are phenomenal, 
especially in creating orchestral blocks, by which I 
mean balancing the whole orchestra in several poly- 
phonic planes. One of the most remarkable noises he 
ever imagined is at bar 89 in Reigen, but there are 
many other striking sonorous inventions; the tuba 
entrance at bar 110 in Reigen, for instance, and bar 
49 of the Preludium, and bar 144 of the Marsch 

I have a photograph on my wall of Berg and Web- 
ern together dating from about the time of the com- 
position of the Three Pieces for Orchestra. Berg is 
tall, loose-set, almost too beautiful; his look is out- 
ward. Webern is short, hard-set, myopic, down-look- 


Conversations with Igor Stravinsky 

ing. Berg reveals an image of himself in his flowing 
"artist's" cravat; Webern wears peasant-type shoes, 
and they are muddy— which to me reveals something 
profound. As I look at this photograph I cannot help 
remembering that so few years after it was taken 
both men died premature and tragic deaths after 
years of poverty, musical neglect, and, finally, musi- 
cal banishment in their own country. I see Webern, 
who in his last months frequented the churchyard 
at Mittersill where he was later buried, standing there 
in the quiet looking to the mountains— according to 
his daughter; and Berg in his last months, suspecting 
that his illness might be fatal. I compare the fate of 
these men who heeded no claim of the world and 
who made music by which our half century will be 
remembered, compare it with the "careers" of con- 
ductors, pianists, violinists— vain excrescences all. 
Then this photograph of two great musicians, two 
pure-in-spirit, herrliche Menschen, restores my sense 
of justice at the deepest level. 

R.C. Did you know Bartok personally? 

LS. I met him at least twice in my life— once in London 
in the nineteen twenties and later in New York in the 
early forties— but I had no opportunity to approach 
him closer either time. I knew the most important 
musician he was, I had heard wonders about the 
sensitivity of his ear, and I bowed deeply to his re- 
ligiosity. However, I never could share his lifelong 
gusto for his native folklore. This devotion was cer- 
tainly real and touching, but I couldn't help regret- 
ting it in the great musician. His death in circum- 
stances of actual need has always impressed me as 
one of the tragedies of our society. 


About Musicians and Others 

R.C. Do you still feel as you once did about the late Verdi 
(in the Poetics of Music)? 

I.S. No. In fact, I am struck by the force, especially in 
Falstaff, with which he resisted Wagnerism, resisted 
or kept away from what had seized the advanced 
musical world. The presentation of musical mono- 
logues seems to me more original in Falstaff than in 
Othello. Original also are the instrumentation, har- 
mony, and voice-leading, yet none of these has left 
any element of the sort that could create a school— so 
different is Verdi's originality from Wagner's. Verdi's 
gift is pure; but even more remarkable than the gift 
itself is the strength with which he developed it from 
Rigoletto to Falstaff, to name the two operas I love 

R.C. Do you now admit any of the operas of Richard 

I.S. I would like to admit all Strauss operas to whichever 
purgatory punishes triumphant banality. Their musi- 
cal substance is cheap and poor; it cannot interest a 
musician today. That now so ascendant Ariadne? I 
cannot bear Strauss's six-four chords: Ariadne makes 
me want to scream. Strauss himself? I had the op- 
portunity to observe him closely during Diaghilev's 
production of his Legend of Joseph more closely 
than at any other time. He conducted the premiere 
of that work and spent some time in Paris during 
the preparation. He never wanted to speak German 
with me, though my German was better than his 
French. He was very tall, bald, energetic, a picture 
of the bourgeois allemand. I watched him at rehears- 
als and I admired the way he conducted. His manner 
to the orchestra was not admirable, however, and 


Conversations with Igor Stravinsky 

the musicians heartily detested him; but every cor- 
rective remark he made was exact: his ears and his 
musicianship were impregnable. At that time his mu- 
sic reminded me of Bocklin and the other painters of 
what we then called the German Green Horrors. I 
am glad that young musicians today have come to 
appreciate the lyric gift in the songs of the composer 
Strauss despised, and who is more significant in our 
music than he is: Gustav Mahler. My low esteem for 
Strauss's operas is somewhat compensated by my ad- 
miration for von Hofmannsthal. I knew this fine poet 
and librettist well, saw him often in Paris, and, I 
believe, for the last time at the Berlin premiere of 
my Oedipus Rex (where Albert Einstein also came 
to greet me). Hofmannsthal was a man of enormous 
culture and very elegant charm. I have read him 
recently, last year before traveling to Hosios Loukas— 
his essay on that extraordinary place— and was 
pleased to think him still good. His Notebooks ( 1922) 
are one of my most treasured books. 

R.C. Are you interested in the current revival of eight- 
eenth-century Italian masters? 

LS. Not very. Vivaldi is greatly overrated— a dull fellow 
who could compose the same form so many times 
over. And in spite of my predisposition in favor of 
Galuppi and Marcello, ( created more by Vernon Lee's 
Studies of the Eighteenth Century in Italy than by 
their music) they are poor composers. As for Cima- 
rosa, I always expect him to abandon his four-times- 
four and turn into Mozart, and when he doesn't I 
am more exasperated than I should be if there had 
never been a Mozart. Caldara I respect largely be- 
cause Mozart copied seven of his canons; I do not 


About Musicians and Others 

know much of his music. Pergolesi? Pulcinella is the 
only work of "his" I like. Scarlatti is a different mat- 
ter but even he varied the form so little. Living part of 
the last two years in Venice I have been exposed to 
an amount of this music. The Goldoni anniversary 
was an occasion to perform many Goldoni-libretto 
operas. I always regret I cannot fully appreciate 
Goldoni, with or without music— I do not understand 
his language— but Goldoni interests me more than 
his musicians. In the Teatro La Fenice or the Chiostro 
Verde of San Giorgio, however, one likes everything a 
little bit more than one might elsewhere. 

The "Venetian" music I would like to revive is by 
Monteverdi and the Gabrielis, by Cipriano and Wil- 
laert, and so many others— why even the great 
Obrecht was "Venetian" at one time— of that so much 
richer and so much closer-to-us period. True, I heard 
a Giovanni Gabrieli-Giovanni Croce concert there 
last year, but almost nothing of the sense of their 
music remained. The tempi were wrong, the orna- 
mentation didn't exist or was wrong when it did, the 
style and sentiment were ahead of the period by 
three and a half centuries, and the orchestra was 
eighteenth-century. When will musicians learn that 
the performance point of Gabrieli's music is rhyth- 
mic not harmonic? When will they stop trying to 
make mass choral effects out of simple harmonic 
changes and bring out, articulate, those marvelous 
rhythmic inventions? Gabrieli is rhythmic polyphony. 



R.C. What was the subject of the "opera" you had planned 
to write with Dylan Thomas? 

I.S. I don't think you can say that the project ever got 
as far as having a subject, but Dylan had a very 
beautiful idea. 

I first heard of Dylan Thomas from Auden, in New 
York, in February or March of 1950. Coming late to an 
appointment one day, Auden excused himself, saying 
he had been busy helping to extricate an English poet 
from some sort of difficulty. He told me about Dylan 
Thomas. I read him after that, and in Urbana in the 
winter of 1950 my wife went to hear him read. Two 
years later, in January 1952, the English film producer 
Michael Powell came to see me in Hollywood with a 
project that I found very attractive. Powell proposed 
to make a short film, a kind of masque, of a scene 
from the Odyssey; it would require two or three arias 
as well as pieces of pure instrumental music and 
recitations of pure poetry. Powell said that Thomas 
had agreed to write the verse; he asked me to compose 
the music. Alas, there was no money. Where were the 
angels, even the Broadway kind, and why are the 
world's commissions, grants, funds, foundations never 
available to Dylan Thomases? I regret that this proj- 
ect was not realized. The Doctor and the Devils 
proves, I think, that Dylan's talent could have created 
the new medium. 

Then in May 1953 Boston University proposed to 
commission me to write an opera with Dylan. I was 
in Boston at the time, and Dylan, who was in New 


About Musicians and Others 

York or New Haven, came to see me. As soon as I saw 
him I knew the only thing to do was to love him. 
He was nervous, however, chain smoking the whole 
time, and he complained of severe gout pains. . . . 
"But I prefer the gout to the cure; I'm not going to let 
a doctor shove a bayonet into me twice a week/' 
His face and skin had the color and swelling of too 
much drinking. He was a shorter man than I expected 
from his portraits, not more than five feet five or six, 
with a large, protuberant behind and belly. His nose 
was a red bulb, and his eyes were glazed. He drank a 
glass of whiskey with me, which made him more at 
ease, though he kept worrying about his wife saying 
he had to hurry home to Wales "or it would be too 
late." He talked to me about the Rakes Progress. He 
had heard the first broadcast of it from Venice. He 
knew the libretto well and he admired it: "Auden is 
the most skillful of us all." I don't know how much he 
knew about music, but he talked about the operas he 
knew and liked and about what he wanted to do. "His" 
opera was to be about the rediscovery of our planet 
following an atomic misadventure. There would be 
a recreation of language, only the new one would have 
no abstractions; there would be only people, objects, 
and words. He promised to avoid poetic indulgences: 
"No conceits, I'll knock them all on the head." He 
talked to me about Yeats who he said was almost the 
greatest lyric poet since Shakespeare, and quoted 
from memory the poem with the refrain, "Daybreak 
and a candle-end." He agreed to come to me in Holly- 
wood as soon as he could. Returning there I had a 
room built for him, an extension from our dining room, 
as we have no guest room. I received two letters from 


Conversations with Igor Stravinsky 

him. I wrote him October 25 in New York and asked 
him for word of his arrival plans in Hollywood. I 
expected a telegram from him announcing the hour 
of his airplane. On November 9 the telegram came. 
It said he was dead. All I could do was cry. 




16th June ig$3 

Dear Mr. Stravinsky, 

I was so very glad to meet you for a little time, in Boston; 
and you and Mrs. Stravinsky couldn't have been kinder to 
me. I hope you get well very soon. 

I haven't heard anything yet from Sarah Caldwell *, 
but I've been thinking a lot about the opera and have a 
number of ideas— good, bad, and chaotic. As soon as I can 
get something down on paper, I should, if I may, love to 
send it to you. I broke my arm just before leaving New 
York the week before last, and can't write properly yet. 
It was only a little break, they tell me, but it cracked like 
a gun. 

I should very much like— if you think you would still 
like me to work with you; and I'd be enormously honoured 
and excited to do that— to come to California in late Sep- 
tember or early October. Would that be convenient? I 
hope so. And by that time, I hope too, to have some clearer 
ideas about a libretto. 

Thank you again. And please give my regards to your 
wife and to Mr. Craft. 

Yours sincerely, 
Dylan Thomas 

* Of Boston University. 


Conversations with Igor Stravinsky 


September 22, 1953 

Dear Igor Stravinsky, 

Thank you very very much for your two extremely nice 
letters, and for showing me the letter you had written to 
Mr. Choate of Boston University. I would have written 
again long before this, but I kept on waiting until I knew for 
certain when I would be able to come to the States; and the 
lecture agent there in New York, who makes my coming 
across possible, has been terribly slow in arranging things. 
I heard from him only this week. Now it is certain that I 
shall be in New York on the 16th of October; and I'll have 
to stay there, giving some poetry-readings and taking part 
in a couple of performances of a small play of mine, until 
the end of October. I should like then, if I may, to come 
straight to California to be with you and to get down 
together to the first stage of our work. ( I'm sure I needn't 
tell you how excited I am to be able to write down that 
word "our." It's wonderful to think of. ) 

One of my chief troubles is, of course, money. I haven't 
any of my own, and most of the little I make seems to go 
to schools for my children, who will persist in getting older 
all the time. The man who's arranged my readings in 
October, at a few Eastern universities and at the Poetry 
Center, New York, is paying my expenses to and from 
New York. But from there to California I will have to pay 
my own way on what I can make out of these readings. I do 
hope it will work out all right. Maybe I'll be able to give 
a few other readings or rantings in California to help pay 
expenses. (I'd relied on drawing my travelling expenses 


About Musicians and Others 

etc. from the original Boston University Commission). I 
want to bring my wife Caitlin with me, and she thinks she 
can stay with a friend in San Francisco while I am working 
with you in Hollywood. Anyway, I'll have to work these 
things out the best I can, and I mustn't bother you with 
them now. Money for California will come somehow, I'll 
pray for ravens to drop some in the desert. The main thing, 
I know, is for me to get to you as soon as possible, so that we 
can begin— well, so that we can begin, whatever it will turn 
out to be. I've been thinking an awful lot about it. 

I was so sorry to hear that you had been laid up for so 
long; I hope you're really well again by this time. My arm's 
fine now and quite as weak as the other one. 

If you don't write to me at Wales before I leave, about 
October 7th, then my American address will be: c/o J. M. 
Brinnin, Poetry Center, YM-YWHA, 1395 Lexington Ave- 
nue, New York, 28. But anyway I'll write again as soon 
as I reach there. 

I'm looking forward enormously to meeting you again, 
and to working with you. And I promise not to tell anyone 
about it— (though it's very hard not to). 

Most sincerely, 
Dylan Thomas 


3: About My Life and Times 
and Other Arts 

R.C.I once heard you describe your childhood glimpses of 
the Tsar Alexander III. 

I.S. I saw the Tsar many times while walking with my 
brothers and governess along the quays of Saint 
Petersburg's Moyka river or by the adjacent canals. 
The Tsar was a very large man. He occupied the 
entire seat of a droshky driven by a troika coachman 
as big and obese as himself. The coachman wore a 
dark blue uniform the chest of which was covered 
with medals. He was seated in front of the Tsar but 
elevated on the driver's seat, where his enormous 
behind, like a gigantic pumpkin, was only a few inches 
from the Tsar's face. The Tsar had to answer greet- 
ings from people in the street by raising his right hand 
towards his temple. As he was recognized by every- 
body, he was obliged to do this almost without inter- 
ruption. His appearances gave me great pleasure, and 
I eagerly anticipated them. We removed our hats 
and received the Tsar's acknowledging gesture feel- 
ing very important indeed. 

I also saw the same Tsar in an unforgettable pag- 
eant, a parade that passed our street on its way to the 


About My Life and Times and Other Arts 

Imperial Mariinsky Theater. It honored the Shah of 
Persia and was the climax of an important state visit. 
We were given places in the first floor window of our 
hairdresser's. The most brilliant procession of all kinds 
of cavalry passed by, imperial guards, coaches with 
grand dukes, ministers, generals. I remember a long, 
forestlike noise, the "hurrah" of the crowds in the 
streets, coming in crescendo waves closer and closer 
with the approaching isolated car of the Tsar and the 

R.C. Your father and Dostoievsky were friends. I suppose 
you as a child heard a great deal about Dostoievsky? 

I.S. Dostoievsky became in my mind the symbol of the 
artist continually in need of money. My mother talked 
about him in this way; she said he was always grub- 
bing. He gave readings from his own works, and these 
were supported by my parents, who complained, how- 
ever, that they were intolerably boring. Dostoievsky 
liked music and often went to concerts with my father. 
Incidentally, I still consider Dostoievsky to be the 
greatest Russian after Pushkin. Now, when one is 
supposed to reveal so much of oneself by one's choice 
of Freud or Jung, Stravinsky or Schoenberg, Dostoiev- 
sky or Tolstoy, I am a Dostoievskyan. 

R.C. I have heard you say you saw Ibsen "plain." 
I.S. In May 1905, shortly after the separation of Norway 
and Sweden, I and my younger brother Goury went 
on a holiday to Scandinavia where we stayed for about 
a month. We sailed from Saint Petersburg to Kron- 
stadt and Helsingfors, staying in the latter city for a 
few days with my uncle, who was the civil governor 
of Finland. We then sailed to Stockholm, stopping 
long enough to hear a performance of the Marriage 
of Figaro, and through the beautiful Swedish lake 


Conversations with Igor Stravinsky 

canals to Goteborg, where we changed boats for 
Copenhagen and Oslo. It was delicious spring weather 
in Oslo, cold but pleasant. One day it seemed like the 
whole population was in the streets. We were riding 
in a droshky, and the friend who was with us told me 
to look at a smallish man on the sidewalk to our right. 
It was Henrik Ibsen. He wore a top hat, and his hair 
was white. He was walking with his hands folded 
behind his back. Some things one sees never leave 
the eyes, never move into the back part of the mind. 
So Ibsen is in my eyes. 

R.C. You were a friend of D'Annunzio's at one time, weren't 

I.S. I saw rather a lot of him just before the 1914 war, but 
Diaghilev had known him before me; he was a great 
enthusiast of our Russian Ballet. I met him for the 
first time in Paris at Mme. Golubev's, a Russian lady 
of the Mme. Recamier school— throughout one's entire 
audience she would remain on a divan with her elbow 
raised and her head propped on her hand. One day, 
D'Annunzio entered her salon, a small man, brisk and 
natty, very perfumed and very bald (Harold Nicol- 
son's likening his head to an egg, in Some People, is an 
exact comparison). He was a brilliant, fast, and very 
amusing talker, so unlike the "talk" in his books. I 
remember that he was very excited about my opera 
The Nightingale; when after its premiere the French 
press had generally attacked it, he wrote an article 
in its defense, an article I wish I still had. I saw 
him many times after that. He came to my apartment 
in Paris, he came to performances of the Ballet and 
to concerts of mine in France and Italy. Then, sud- 
denly, it was discovered that his execrable taste in 
literature went together with Mussolini's execrable 


About My Life and Times and Other Arts 

taste in everything else. He was no longer a "char- 
acter" and no longer amusing. But whether or not 
he survives as a readable author, his influence does 
still survive: the interiors of many Italian homes still 
follow descriptions in his novels. 

On a recent visit to Asolo, to see the composer 
Malipiero, I was strongly reminded of D'Annunzio. 
Malipiero has a most extraordinary and not en- 
tirely un-D'Annunzian house himself, a fine Vene- 
tian building on a hillside. One enters under a 
Latin inscription and plunges into darkest night. 
The dark is in deference to pairs of owls who, from 
covered cages in obscure corners, hoot the two notes, 


in tune with Malipiero's piano after he plays them. 
There is evidence in the garden of affection for other 
of God's feathered creatures: chickens have been 
buried in marked graves; Malipiero's chickens die of 
old age. 

R.C. You knew Rodin, didn't you? 

I.S. I made his acquaintance in the Grand Hotel in Rome 
shortly after the beginning of the First World War. 
Diaghilev had organized a benefit concert there in 
which I conducted the Suite from Petroushka. I 
confess I was more interested in him because of his 
fame than because of his art, for I did not share the 
enthusiasm of his numerous and serious admirers. I 
met him again, sometime later, at one of our ballet 
performances in Paris. He greeted me kindly, as 
though I were an old acquaintance, and at that mo- 


Conversations with Igor Stravinsky 

ment I remembered the impression his fingers had 
made on me at our first handshaking. They were soft, 
quite the contrary of what I had expected, and they 
did not seem to belong to a male hand, especially not 
to a sculptor's hand. He had a long white beard that 
reached down to the navel of his long, buttoned-up 
surtout, and white hair covered his entire face. He 
sat reading a Ballet Russe program through a pince- 
nez while people waited impatiently for the great old 
artist to stand up as they passed in his row— not know- 
ing it was he. It has been said that Rodin drew a 
sketch of me. To the best of my knowledge that is not 
so. Perhaps the author of that information was con- 
fusing him with Bonnard who did, in fact, make a 
fine ink portrait of me in 1913— lost, unfortunately, 
with all of my belongings, in our estate in Russia. 

R.C. Wasn't there also a question of Modigliani doing a 
portrait of you? 

I.S. Yes. I don't remember the circumstances very clearly 
but I visited him in company with Leon Bakst in 1912 
or 1913 because either he or I or Diaghilev had con- 
ceived the project of his doing a portrait. 

I don't know why it wasn't realized— whether 
Modigliani was ill, as he so often was, or whether I 
was called away with the ballet. At that time I had 
an immense admiration for him. * 

* A portrait of me by Modigliani has been discovered since 
these remarks were made. It is a large picture in gray, black 
and ivory oils, undated but similar in period style to the Max 
Jacob and Cocteau portraits. It has been certified by such 
experts as Zborovsky, Schoeller, and Georges Guillaume, and 
by a statement from Picasso: "J e pense que ce tableau est un 
portrait de Stravinsky, Cannes, le 18-9-57 (signe) Picasso/' 
Modigliani must have done it from memory. I regret to have to 
admit that it does resemble me. 


About My Life and Times and Other Arts 

R.C. One more "painter" question. I once heard you de- 
scribe your meeting Claude Monet. 

I.S. I don't know where Diaghilev found the old man or 
how he managed to get him into a loge at one of our 
Ballet Russe spectacles, but I saw him there and came 
to serrer la main. It was after the war, in 1922 or 1923 
I think, and of course no one would believe it was 
Claude Monet. He wore a white beard and was nearly 
blind. I know now what I wouldn't have believed 
then, that he was painting his greatest pictures at 
the time, those huge, almost abstract canvases of pure 
color and light ( ignored until recently; I believe they 
are in the Orangeries, but a very beautiful Water Lilies 
which now looks as good as any art of the period, I go 
to see in the Museum of Modern Art every time I am 
in New York ) . * Old Monet, hoary and nearly blind, 
couldn't have impressed me more if he had been 
Homer himself. 

R.C. You were with Mayakovsky very often on his famous 
Paris trip in 1922? 

I.S. Yes, but he was a closer friend to Prokofiev than to 
me. I remember him as a somewhat burly youth— he 
was twenty-eight or twenty-nine at the time— who 
drank more than he should have and who was de- 
plorably dirty, like many of the poets I have known. 
Sometimes I am reminded of him when I see a photo- 
graph of Gromyko, though I don't know just where 
the resemblance is. I considered him a good poet and 
I admired and still do admire his verses. However, he 
insisted on talking to me about music, and his under- 
standing of that art was wholly imaginary. He spoke 
no French, and therefore with him I was always 

* Alas, since I wrote this, the Water Lilies has been destroyed 
by fire. 


Conversations with Igor Stravinsky 

obliged to be a translator. I remember one such oc- 
casion when I was between him and Cocteau. Curi- 
ously, I found the French for everything Mayakovsky 
said very easily, but not the Russian for Cocteaus 
remarks. His suicide a few years later was the first 
of the shocks that were to come regularly from Russia 

R.C.Raymond Radiguet was often in your company the 
year before his death. How do you remember him? 

I.S. I saw him almost every day of 1922 that I spent in 
Paris. He was a silent youth with a serene, rather 
childlike look, but with something of the young bull 
in him too. He was of medium build, handsome— 
rather pederastically so, but without pederastic man- 
ners. The first time I saw him he was with Cocteau. 
I was sitting with Diaghilev in a cafe when they 

S.D.: "Qu'est ce que cest Fenvies ce nouveau true?" 
I.S.: "Tu Tenvies?" 
He immediately struck me as a gifted individual and 
he also had the other intelligence, the machine a 
penser kind. His opinions were immediate and they 
were his, whereas the opinions of those around him 
were too often "composed." I still think his poems 
very good indeed and the two novels hardly less good. 
The latter were autobiographical, of course, and 
everyone in Paris knew who was who. But I remember 
that when Radiguet died (at twenty) even the man 
effigied as the Comte d'Orgel in the book was greatly 

R.C. While you are reminiscing, would you describe your 

last meeting with Proust? 
I.S. After the premieres of Mavra and Renard in June 


About My Life and Times and Other Arts 

1922, I went to a party given by a friend of mine, 
Princess Violette Murat. Marcel Proust was there also. 
Most of the people came to that party from my 
premiere at the Grand Opera, but Proust came di- 
rectly from his bed, getting up as usual very late in 
the evening. He was a pale man, elegantly and 
Frenchly dressed, wearing gloves and carrying a cane. 
I talked to him about music, and he expressed much 
enthusiasm for the late Beethoven quartets— enthu- 
siasm I would have shared, were it not a commonplace 
among the intellectuals of that time and not a musical 
judgment but a literary pose. 

R.C. Klee, Kandinsky, and Busoni attended the 1923 
Weimar performance of Histoire du Soldat. Do you 
remember anything about these gentlemen at the 

I.S. I was only a very short time at Weimar— just long 
enough for the rehearsals and the performance of 
Histoire, conducted by Hermann Scherchen. Of the 
three artists you mention, I met only Ferruccio Busoni, 
who was sitting at this performance in the same box 
as I was. He had the noblest, most beautiful head I 
have ever seen, and I watched him as much as the 
stage. He seemed to be very much touched by the 
work. But whether it was the play of Ramuz, my 
music, or the whole thing, was not easy to determine, 
especially since I knew that I was his bete noire in 
music. Now, thirty-five years later, I have a great 
admiration for his vision, for his literary talent, and 
for at least one of his works: Doktor Faust. Un- 
fortunately I did not meet Paul Klee there or later in 
my life. * I did have the good fortune to know Kan- 

* Klee's portrait drawing of me must have been done from 


Conversations with Igor Stravinsky 

dinsky in Paris in the 1930s and I will always remem- 
ber him as an aristocrat, un homme de choix. 

R.C. I often hear you speak of your admiration for Ortega y 
Gasset. Did you know him well? 

LS. I saw him only once, in Madrid in March 1955, but 
I felt I knew him from his work long before that. 
That night in Madrid he came to my hotel with 
Madame la Marquise de Slauzol, and we drank a 
bottle of whiskey together and were very gay. He 
was charming and very kind. I have often thought 
since that he must have been aware that he had 
cancer; a few months later he was dead. He was not 
tall, but I remember him as a large man because of 
his great head. His bust reminded me of a Roman 
statesman or philosopher, and I tried all evening to 
recall just which Roman he really was. He spoke vivid 
r-rolling French in a strong, slightly husky voice. 
Everything he said was vivid. The Tagus at Toledo 
was "arteriosclerotic"; Cordoba was "a rose bush but 
with the flowers in the ground and the roots in the 
air." The art of the Portuguese "is their memory of 
China, of pagodas." Of his philosopher contempo- 
raries he spoke reverently of Scheler, of Husserl, of 
his master Cohen, of Heidegger. As for the Wittgen- 
stein school: "Philosophy calling itself Logical Posi- 
tivism now claims to be a science, but this is only a 
brief attack of modesty." He talked about Spain (I 
regret his Castles in Castile does not exist in English) 
and laughed at tourists' sentiments "for the poor peo- 
ple living in caves," which he said they do not do out 
of poverty but because it is a very ancient tradition. 
He was sympathetic and intelligent about the United 
States when we talked of them— the unique European 
"intellectual" I encountered that trip who knew some- 


About My Life and Times and Other Arts 

thing about them beyond what he had read in Mel- 
ville and the magazines. He proudly showed me a 
photograph, which he took from his wallet, of himself 
and Gary Cooper taken in Aspen in 1949. He said that 
Thornton Wilder had translated for him there, but 
that his audiences had understood before the trans- 
lations came "because of my extravagant gestures." 

R.C. How did Giacometti come to make his drawings of 

I.S. He had done five or six designs from photographs 
before he saw me and he didn't like them. Then, 
sitting a few feet from me, he did a whole series, 
working very fast with only a few minutes of actual 
drawing for each one. He says that in sculpture also 
he accomplishes the final product very quickly, but 
does the sometimes hundreds of discarded prepara- 
tory ones slowly over long periods of time. He drew 
with a very hard lead, smudging the lines with erasers 
from time to time. He was forever mumbling: "Non 
. . . impossible . . . fe ne peux pas . . . une tete 
violante . . . je nai pas de talent . . . fe ne peux 
pas . . ." He surprised me the first time he came for 
I expected a "Giacometti" tall and thin. He said he 
had just escaped from an automobile manufacturer 
who had been offering him a considerable sum to say 
that automobiles and sculptures are the same things, 
i.e., beautiful objects. In fact, Giacometti's almost 
favorite topic was the difference between a sculpture 
and an object. "Men in the street walking in different 
directions are not objects in space." "Sculpture," he 
said, "is a matiere transformed into expression, ex- 
pression in which nature counts for less than style." 
"Sculpture is expression in space, which means that 
it can never be complete; to be complete is to be 


Conversations tvith Igor Stravinsky 

static." "All busts are ridiculous; the whole body is 
the only subject for sculpture." 

His conversation about sculptors was sometimes 
surprising. He liked Pigalle, thought him the greatest 
sculptor of the dix-huitieme, especially in the memo- 
rial of the Marechale de Saxe at Strasbourg. He much 
preferred Pigalle's rejected "Nude Voltaire" to Hou- 
don's famous official "Voltaire" "because of its greater 
nervousness." For him Canova was not really a sculp- 
tor, while Rodin was "the last great Sculptor and in 
the same line as Donatello (not the Rodin of the 
Balzac or the Burghers, of course)." Brancusi wasn't 
a sculptor at all, he said, but a "maker of objects." 
I like Giacometti's work— I have one of those full-of- 
sculptural-space paintings of his on my dining-room 
wall— and I have an affection for himself, for his own 
"nervousness." I like the character of him in a story 
he told me. He had a great admiration for Klee and, 
one time in the late 1930s when both artists were 
living in Switzerland he at last determined to go and 
call on him. He walked from the station to what he 
thought was Klee's house— it was on a mountainside 
some distance from the town— but when he arrived 
there he discovered that Klee actually lived farther 
up on the mountain. "I lost all courage and didn't 
go— I had just enough courage to get that far." 



R.C. Do you remember Balla's set for your Fireworks? 

I.S. Vaguely, but I couldn't have described it even at 
the time (Rome, 1917) as anything more than a few 
splashes of paint on an otherwise empty backcloth, 
I do remember that it baffled the audience, however, 
and that when Balla came out to bow there was no 
applause: the public didn't know who he was, what 
he had done, why he should be bowing. Balla then 
reached in his pocket and squeezed a device that 
made his papillon necktie do tricks. This sent Dia- 
ghilev and me— we were in a box— into uncontrollable 
laughter, but the audience remained dumb. 

Balla was always amusing and always likable, and 
some of the drollest hours of my life were spent in 
his and his fellow Futurists' company. The idea of 
doing a Futurist ballet was Diaghilev's, but we de- 
cided together on my Fireworks music: it was "mod- 
ern" enough and only four minutes long. Balla had 
impressed us as a gifted painter and we asked him to 
design a set. 

I made fast friends with him after that, visiting 
him often in his apartment in Rome. He lived near 
the zoo, so near in fact that his balcony overhung a 
large cage. One heard animal noises in his rooms as 
one hears street noises in a New York hotel room. 
Futurism's headquarters were in Milan, however, 
and it was there that my meetings with Balla and 
also Boccioni, Russolo the noisemaker, Carra, and 
Marinetti took place. Milan was to Switzerland as 
Hollywood is to these hills, except that it was easier 


Conversations with Igor Stravinsky 

then to take the train and descend to the Italian city 
for an evening performance than it is now to drive 
to downtown Los Angeles. And in wartime Milan 
my few Swiss francs made me feel agreeably rich. 

On one of my Milanese visits Marinetti and Russolo, 
a genial, quiet man but with wild hair and beard, and 
Pratella, another moviemaker, put me through a dem- 
onstration of their "Futurist Music." Five phonographs 
standing on five tables in a large and otherwise empty 
room emitted digestive noises, static, etc., remarkably 
like the Musique Concrete of seven or eight years ago 
(so perhaps they were Futurist after all; or perhaps 
Futurisms aren't progressive enough). I pretended to 
be enthusiastic and told them that sets of five phono- 
graphs with such music, mass-produced, would surely 
sell like Steinway grand pianos. 

Some years after this demonstration Marinetti in- 
vented what he called "discreet noises," noises to be 
associated with objects. I remember one such sound 
(to be truthful, it wasn't at all discreet ) and the object 
it accompanied, a substance that looked like velvet 
but had the roughest surface I have ever touched. 
Balla must have participated in the "noise" movement, 
too, for he once gave me an Easter present, a papier- 
mache Pascha cake that sighed very peculiarly when 

The most memorable event in all my years of 
friendship with the Futurists was a performance we 
saw together at the Milan puppet theater of The 
Chinese Pirates, sl "drama in three acts." It was in fact 
one of the most impressive theatrical experiences of 
my life. The theater itself was puppet-sized. An invisi- 
ble orchestra— clarinet, piano, violin, bass— played an 
overture and bits of incidental music. There were tiny 


About My Life and Times and Other Arts 

windows on either side of the tiny stage. In the last 
act we heard singing and were terrified to see that 
it came from giants standing behind these windows; 
they were normal-statured human singers, of course, 
but we were accustomed to the puppet scale. 

The Futurists were absurd, but sympathetically so, 
and they were infinitely less pretentious than some 
of the later movements that borrowed from them— 
than Surrealism, for instance, which had more sub- 
stance; unlike the Surrealists they were able to laugh 
at their own pose of artist-contra-Gentiles. Marinetti 
himself was a balalaika— & chatterbox— but he was 
also the kindest of men. I regret that he seemed to me 
the least gifted of the whole group— compared to 
Boccioni, Balla, and Carra, who were all able painters. 
The Futurists were not the airplanes they wanted to 
be but they were at any rate a pack of very nice, 
noisy Vespas. 

R.C. Did you choose Nicolas Roerich to do the decors for 
the Sacre du PrintempsP 

I.S. Yes. I had admired his sets for Prince Igor and 
imagined he might do something similar for the Sacre. 
Above all, I knew he would not overload. Diaghilev 
agreed with me, and accordingly, in the summer of 
1912, I met Roerich in Smolensk and worked with 
him there in the country house of the Princess 
Tenischev, a patroness and liberal who had helped 

I still have a good opinion of Roerich's he Sacre. 
He had designed a backdrop of steppes and sky, the 
Hie Sunt Leones country of old mapmakers' imagi- 
nations. The row of twelve blond, square-shouldered 
girls against this landscape made a very striking tab- 


Conversations with Igor Stravinsky 

leau. And Roerich's costumes were said to have been 
historically exact as well as scenically satisfying. 

I met Roerich, a blond-bearded, Kalmuck-eyed, 
pug-nosed man, in 1904. His wife was a relative of 
Mitusov's, my friend and co-librettist of the Night- 
ingale, and I often saw the Roerichs at Mitusov's 
Saint Petersburg house. Roerich claimed descent from 
Rurik, the Russo-Scandinavian Ur-Prince. Whether 
or not this was true (he looked Scandinavian, but 
one cant say such things any more), he was certainly 
a seigneur. I became quite fond of him in those early 
years, though not of his painting, which was a kind 
of advanced Puvis de Chavannes. I was not sur- 
prised during the last war to hear of his secret ac- 
tivities and of his curious connection with Vice- 
President Wallace in Tibet; he looked as though he 
ought to have been either a mystic or a spy. Roerich 
came to Paris for Le Sacre, but he received very little 
attention and, after the premiere disappeared— 
slighted, I think— back to Russia. I never saw him 

K.C.Was Henri Matisse your choice of painter for the 
Chant du Rossignol sets? 

I.S. No, his collaboration was Diaghilev's idea entirely. 
In fact, I opposed it, but too directly. (Amiel says, 
"Every direct resistance ends in disaster.") The pro- 
duction and especially Matisse's part in it were 
failures. Diaghilev hoped Matisse would do some- 
thing very Chinese and charming. All he did do, 
however, was to copy the China of the shops in the 
Rue de la Boetie. Matisse designed not merely the 
sets, as you say, but also the costumes and curtain. 
Matisse's art has never attracted me, but at the time 
of the Chant du Rossignol I saw him often and liked 


About My Life and Times and Other Arts 

him personally. I remember an afternoon together 
with him in the Louvre. He was never a rousing 
conversationalist but he stopped in front of a Rem- 
brandt and started to talk excitedly about it. At one 
point he took a white handkerchief from his pocket— 
"Which is white, this handkerchief or the white in 
that picture? Even the absence of color does not 
exist, but only white' or each and every white." 
Our Matisse collaboration made Picasso very an- 
gry: "Matisse! What is a Matisse? A balcony with a 
big red flowerpot falling all over it." 

R.C. Do you remember Golovine's decors for the first Fire- 

I.S. All I remember about them is that the costumes 
pleased me at the time. The curtain was the curtain 
of the Opera. I do not remember how many sets 
Golovine did but I am certain that if I were trans- 
ported back to that Firebird of 1910 I would find 
them very opulent indeed. 

Golovine was several years my senior, and he was 
not our first choice. Diaghilev wanted Vroubel, the 
most talented of all the Russian painters of that epoch, 
but Vroubel was dying or going mad. We also con- 
sidered Benois but Diaghilev preferred Golovine for 
his realization of the fantastic scenes in Russian, and 
Golovine's orientalism conformed to the ideals of Dia- 
ghilevs own magazine, Mir Isskoustva, rather than 
to the academic orientalism then so popular. As an 
easel painter Golovine was a kind of Russian poin- 

I do not remember Golovine at the first Firebird 
performance. Diaghilev probably did not have money 
enough to pay his trip ( I myself received 1,000 rou- 
bles, $500, for the commission and the expenses of all 


Conversations with Igor Stravinsky 

the travel and stay in Paris ) . The first Firebird! I stood 
in the dark of the Opera through eight orchestra 
rehearsals conducted by Pierne. The stage and the 
whole theater glittered at the premiere, and that is 
all I remember. 

R.C. How do you regard Leon Bakst? 
LS. No one could describe him as concisely as Cocteau 
has done in his caricature. We were friends from our 
first meeting, in Saint Petersburg in 1909, though 
our conversation was largely Bakst's accounts of his 
exploits in the conquest of women, and my incredu- 
lity: "Now, Lev . . . You couldn't have done all that." 

Bakst wore elegant hats, canes, spats, etc., but I 
think these were meant to detract from his Venetian 
comedy-mask nose. Like other dandies Bakst was 
sensitive— and privately mysterious. Roerich told me 
that "Bakst" was a Jewish word meaning 'little um- 
brella." Roerich said he discovered this one day in 
Minsk when he was caught in a thunder shower and 
heard people sending their children home for "Baksts," 
which then turned out to be what he said they were. 

There was a question of Bakst designing Mavra 
for me, but a money quarrel resulted with Diaghilev. 
None of us ever reconciled, and I regretted it, es- 
pecially when, only three years later, aboard the 
Paris on my first trip to the United States, I saw the 
notice of his death in the ship's newspaper. 

Bakst loved Greece and all things Greek. He trav- 
eled there with Serov ( Serov was the conscience of 
our whole circle and a very important friend to me in 
my youth; even Diaghilev feared him ) , and published 
a book of travel diaries called, With Serov in Greece 
( 1922) that ought to have been put into English long 


About My Life and Times and Other Arts 

I had seen Bakst's easel painting before I knew 
any of his theatrical work but I could not admire it. 
In fact, it represented everything in Russia against 
which Le Sacre du Printemps is the revolt. I consider 
Bakst's Scheherazade to be a masterpiece, however, 
perhaps the perfect achievement of the Russian Ballet 
from the scenic point of view. Costumes, sets, the 
curtain, were colorful in an indescribable way— we 
are so much poorer in these things now. I remember, 
too, that Picasso considered Scheherazade a master- 
piece. In fact, it was the one production of the ballet 
he really did admire: "Vous savez, cest tres speciale, 
mais admirablement fait!' 

R.C. And Benois? 

I.S. I knew him before I knew Bakst. He was at that time 
the most cultivated Italophile I had ever met, and 
except for Eugene Berman he would be still: and 
Benois and Berman are very like in the fact of their 
Russian background, their Romantic theater, their 
Italophilia. Benois knew more about music than any 
of the other painters, though of course the music he 
knew was nineteenth-century Italian opera. I think 
he liked my Petroushka, however, or at any rate, he 
wasn't calling it Petrouchka-ka as many others of his 
generation were. But Benois was the conservative of 
the company, and Petroushka was his exceptional 

I collaborated with him in a small way before 
Petroushka with two orchestrations contributed to 
Les Sylphides. (I doubt I would like these arrange- 
ments today— I no longer care for that "clarinet solo" 
kind of music.) But though I was delighted with 
his work in Les Sylphides I wouldn't have chosen 
him to do Petroushka on the strength of it. My real 


Conversations with Igor Stravinsky 

friendship with him began in Rome in 1911 when I 
was finishing Petroushka. We stayed in the Albergo 
Italia near the Quattro Fontane and for two months 
were with each other every day. 

Benois was very quickly up on his amour propre. 
The ballet's greatest success at that time was the 
Spectre de la Rose with Nijinsky, and Benois was 
plainly jealous of Bakst's role in that success. Jealousy 
accounts for an incident that occurred the following 
year. Benois was painting the backdrop of Pe- 
troushka's cell when Bakst happened on the set, 
picked up a brush, and started to help. Benois fairly 
flew at him. 

R*C.And was Michel Larionov your choice of painter 
for Renard? 

I.S. Diaghilev suggested him first, but he became my 
choice also. As you know, I composed Renard for the 
Princess Edmonde de Polignac. In 1914 I was cut 
off from my Russian estate money and lived in Swit- 
zerland on a very small income. Diaghilev could pay 
me nothing in those war years, so I accepted a com- 
mission of 2,500 Swiss francs from the Princess de 
Polignac. Diaghilev was furious with jealousy (but 
Diaghilev was always jealous; I think I am fair in 
saying that about him and I certainly knew him well 
enough to be able to say it now). For two years he 
would not mention Renard to me, which didn't pre- 
vent him from talking about it to others: "Our Igor, 
always money, money, money, and for what? This 
Renard is some old scraps he found in his dresser 

Diaghilev visited me in Ouchy in January or Feb- 
ruary 1917, and I played Les Noces for him. He 
wept (it was very surprising to see this huge man 


About My Life and Times and Other Arts 

weep), saying it had touched him more than any- 
thing he had ever heard, but he would not inquire 
about Renard even though he knew I had completed 
it. And he knew also that the Princess Polignac had 
no theater, that she had commissioned me only to 
help me, that she would give Renard to him to per- 
form. ( Some years later the Princess de Polignac gave 
an avant-propos piano performance of Oedipus Rex at 
her house and paid me 12,000 francs, which I gave to 
Diaghilev to help finance the public performance.) 

Larionov was a huge, blond mujik of a man, even 
bigger than Diaghilev (Larionov, who had an un- 
controllable temper, once knocked Diaghilev down). 
He made a vocation of laziness, like Oblomov, and we 
always believed that his wife, Goncharova, did his 
work for him. He was a talented painter, nevertheless, 
and I still like his Renard set and costumes. Renard 
was performed together with Mama, as you know, 
and both works were preceded by a big orchestral bal- 
let which made my small-scale pieces seem even 

Renard was no huge success, but compared to it 
Mama was even less of a "hit." Mama was very ably 
designed by Survage, an unknown artist who had 
been commissioned after Diaghilev had quarreled 
with Bakst. The Mavra failure annoyed Diaghilev. He 
was anxious to impress Otto Kahn, who attended the 
premiere in Diaghilev's box and who was to have 
brought the company to America. Otto Kahn s only 
comment was "I liked it all, then— poop— it ends too 
quickly." Diaghilev asked me to change the ending. 
I refused, of course, and he never forgave me. 

Another "ballet painter" I saw a lot of at this time 
was Derain. I liked his "parigot" talk, liked him more 


Conversations with Igor Stravinsky 

than his pictures, in fact, though there are charming 
small Derains. He was a man of large build— Balthus's 
portrait of him is a good resemblance— and a copious 
drinker. During the latter activity furniture was some- 
times smashed, but I always found Derain very agree- 
able. I mediated for him in a quarrel with Diaghilev, 
who wanted to change something in La Boutique 
Fantasque. In his later years Derain was a solitary 
figure and we no longer saw him at concerts or spec- 
tacles. My last meeting with him was an extraordinary 
coincidence. I was driving near Toulon and stopped 
to walk in a pine wood. I came upon someone stand- 
ing before an easel, painting, and it turned out to be 

Now that I have mentioned Derain I would also 
like to record my associations with some other artists, 
most of them associated with Diaghilev or the Ballet. 
I think, for example, of Alexis Jawlensky. Diaghilev 
had described him to me in Saint Petersburg days as a 
strong follower of the new Munich school. In spite of 
this he was a contributor to Mir Isskoustva; I say "in 
spite" because Diaghilev considered the Munich 
school to be the ultimate in "Boche" bad taste. I did 
not meet Jawlensky in Russia but in Switzerland. At 
the beginning of the war I was living in Morges and 
he in St. Prex, which is nearby. I sometimes walked 
with my children from our Morges house to his in St. 
Prex. He was always hospitable, and his studio was a 
little island of Russian color that delighted my 

Max Liebermann was another friend, especially 
during the first period of our Ballet in Berlin. I made 
his acquaintance, together with Gerhardt Haupt- 
manns, after a performance of Petroushka and I saw 


About My Life and Times and Other Arts 

him quite often thereafter. He was a celebrated wit. 
In a story then circulating, a portrait painter com- 
missioned to do Von Hindenburg complains to 
Liebermann of his inability to draw von Hindenburg's 
features, whereupon Liebermann exclaims: "Ich kann 
den Alten in den Schnee pissen." As you know, it was 
Liebermann who nominated me to the Prussian 

Jacques-Emile Blanche was another friend of my 
early Diaghilev years. He painted two portraits of me 
that are now in the Luxembourg. I remember sitting 
for him, and how he drew my head and features only 
after a great amount of modeling, while everything 
else, the body and the background, was added in 
absentia. This meant that one's legs might turn out too 
long and one's middle too capacious, or that one might 
find oneself promenading on the beach at Deauville, 
as I am made to do in one of my portraits. However, 
Blanche's faces were usually accurately characterized, 
and that was the important thing. Blanche was a fine 
mouche for celebrities; he came to make my portrait 
almost the morning after the premiere of the Firebird. 

Robert Delauney was another painter I saw very 
often at one time. He talked too much and too enthu- 
siastically about "modern art," but was otherwise 
quite likable. He did a portrait of me too. I don't know 
what has become of it, but it was certainly better than 
Albert Gleizes' cubist one, which is my mustache plus 
what-have-you. Delauney never did design a ballet 
for Diaghilev, but he was often with him, and in 
Madrid, in 1921, we were all three constantly to- 

Fernand L£ger I knew throughout the Diaghilev 
period, but we were closer friends in the United States 


Conversations with Igor Stravinsky 

during the second war. I remember a French dinner 
we had prepared for him in our house in Hollywood 
in the dark early days of the war. It concluded with 
French Caporal cigarettes, and Leger was so touched 
upon seeing these, he burst out crying. The Leger 
drawing of a parrot on our living-room wall was given 
to us by him at this time. 

Pavel Tchelichev I met in 1922 in Berlin, where I 
was awaiting my mother's arrival from the Soviet 
Union (she had been petitioning since the Revolu- 
tion for permission to emigrate, had at last obtained it, 
but her boat was several times delayed). Tchelichev 
was talented and handsome and he was quick to un- 
derstand the value of that combination in the Diaghi- 
lev ambience. I was not attracted by his earliest 
"Russian style" paintings, but his sets for Nabokov's 
ballet Ode convinced me of his abilities. Later he 
made my Balustrade one of the most visually satisfy- 
ing of all my ballets. 

Marc Chagall I had heard of in Diaghilev days from 
Larionov, who belonged to Chagall's circle of Russian 
painters, but I first met him in New York. My wife, 
Vera de Bosset, had arranged with him for a show of 
his Aleko designs and sketches in her Hollywood gal- 
lery, La Boutique. Accordingly, we called on him one 
day in his Riverside Drive apartment. He was in 
mourning for his wife and he hardly spoke without 
mentioning her. (I now remember that Lipnitsky, the 
photographer, was there and made several photo- 
graphs of us together, but I have never seen them. ) 
Two or three years later Chagall was asked to do stage 
settings and costumes for my Renard. I regret very 
much that he refused (saying, as I was told, that he 
wanted to do only "a major work of Stravinsky's"). 


About My Life and Times and Other Arts 

I still hope he will one day do Renard and Les Noces; 
no one could be more perfect for them. Chagall's Fire- 
bird was a very flamboyant exhibition, though perhaps 
more successful in the painting than in the costumes. 
He made an ink portrait of me and presented it to 
me as a memento of our collaboration. 

There were others too, like Marie Laurencin 
( though I couldn't like her couleur de rose painting; 
I like rose, of course, but not when I am emmerde with 
it; and I had the same trouble with her gris after 
Cocteau said: "Marie, tu as invente les nuances de 
gris"); Constantine Brancusi; Braque (who gave 
valuable and kind advice to my painter son, The- 
odore ) ; Andre Bauchant ( a kind man; the idea that he 
should decorate my Apollo was entirely Diaghilev's, 
however, and his set for that ballet was very far from 
what I had in mind); Christian Berard; and Georges 
Rouault (with whom my wife worked designing the 
ballet Fils Prodigue ) . 

R.C. You must have seen a great deal of Jose Maria Sert 
in the Diaghilev days. 

I.S. Yes, but his wife Misia was much more a friend to 
me and, in truth, I could not help finding Sert slightly 
ridiculous. The Serts were among the first people I 
met in Paris when I arrived there in 1910 (though 
they were not yet legally Herts'). He knew a great 
lot of "interesting people," especially "interesting rich 
people," and he was very good at getting commissions 
from them. I believe that he became a "painter of the 
Russian Ballet" chiefly because he knew Fiirstner, 
Richard Strauss's publisher. Diaghilev wanted Strauss 
to compose a ballet, and the only way he could get 
at him was through Fiirstner. Sert became the am- 
bassador of the project and therefore its painter. The 


Conversations tvith Igor Stravinsky 

ballet was the Legend of Joseph, as you know. Sert's 
sets for it were overcrowded, and the result was not 
one of Diaghilev's greatest successes. 

Sert might have figured more permanently in the 
history of painting as a subject. A big, black-bearded 
man, demode-distinguished, he would have made an 
excellent portrait subject for Manet. His manner was 
very grand, and he played at being Spanish, but he 
had a sense of humor that somewhat redeemed these 
affectations. I remember asking him once how he 
intended to move one of his huge murals, and his 
answer: "You turn a little valve and it deflates to 
one hundredth the size/* We came to the U.S. on 
the Normundie together in the 1930s, and the last 
time I saw him was in the U.S. Poor Sert, he wanted 
to be a painter, but his painting, alas, is quelconque. 

R.C. Have you any notion where Picasso's backdrop for 
Pulcinella might be? 

I.S. It was in the dome of the Paris Opera, when I last 
heard, and completely faded save for the moon, whose 
yellow had been renewed, in part, by a cat. Dia- 
ghilev, I suppose, was in debt to the Director of the 
Opera, and when our company withdrew after the 
Pulcinella performances the Picasso was kept there. 
I have a vague recollection of meeting Picasso with 
Vollard at my friend Prince Argutinsky's about 1910, 
but I did not know him until 1917, when we were 
together in Rome. I immediately liked his flat, un- 
enthusiastic manner of speaking and his Spanish way 
of accenting each syllable: "He ne suis pas musicien, 
he comprends rien dans la musique," all said as 
though he couldn't care less. It was the moment of 
the Russian Revolution, and we could no longer pre- 


About My Life and Times and Other Arts 

cede our ballet programs with the imperial anthem. 
I instrumentated the "Song of the Volga Boatmen* 
to replace it, and on the title page of my manu- 
script Picasso painted a red circle as a symbol of the 

Picasso drew my portrait at this same time (the 
first one; the armchair portrait was done in his Rue de 
la Boetie apartment, and the third one was conceived 
as a mutual gift from Picasso and myself to our friend 
Eugenia Errazuriz). It was in the Hotel de la Russie, 
near the Piazza del Popolo, where many of the ballet 
dancers were staying, including Picasso's future wife 
Olga ( Olga, who had changed his social life; she had 
many new robes from Chanel to show, besides Picasso, 
and suddenly the great painter was to be seen at 
every cocktail party, theater, and dinner ) . Picasso was 
always very generous in making gifts of his art. I have 
a dozen paintings or drawings given to me by him at 
various times, including some beautiful ink designs of 
horses drawn on letter envelopes and a fine phallic 
circle-drawing for a cover of my Ragtime. 

We journeyed to Naples together (Picasso's por- 
trait of Massine was drawn in the train) and spent 
some weeks in close company there. We were both 
much impressed with the Commedia del' Arte, which 
we saw in a crowded little room reeking of garlic. 
The Pulcinella was a great drunken lout whose every 
gesture, and probably every word if I had under- 
stood, was obscene. The only other incident of our 
Neapolitan holiday I can remember is that we were 
both arrested one night for urinating against a wall 
of the Galleria. I asked the policeman to take us across 
the street to the San Carlo Opera to find someone to 
vouch for us. The policeman granted our request. 


Conversations with Igor Stravinsky 

Then, as the three of us marched backstage, he heard 
us being addressed as maestri and let us go. 

Picasso's original Pulcinella was very different from 
the pure commedia dell'arte Diaghilev wanted. His 
first designs were for Offenbach-period costumes with 
side-whiskered faces instead of masks. When he 
showed them, Diaghilev was very brusque: "Oh, this 
isn't it at all," and proceeded to tell Picasso how to do 
it. The evening concluded with Diaghilev actually 
throwing the drawings on the floor, stomping on them, 
and slamming the door as he left. The next day all 
of Diaghilev's charm was needed to reconcile the 
deeply insulted Picasso, but Diaghilev did succeed 
in getting him to do a commedia delTarte Pulcinella. 
I might add that Diaghilev was equally against my 
Pulcinella music at first. He had expected a strict, 
mannered orchestration of something very sweet. 


Venice, 1925. 

Diaghilev's funeral procession, Venice, 1935. 

|g%%^ % 

With Robert Craft and Pierre Boulez. 



Preparing for a performance of Persephone in New York. 
above and facing page 


Vw? 1 

The Stravinskys in a Venice restaurant after the premiere of the Canticum 
Sacrum. (Columbia Records Photo) 

At the Jolas Gallery for the opening of Mme. Stravinsky's first New York 
showing, 1957. 

Conducting the Canticum Sacrum at the Church of San Marco, Venice, 
September, 1956. (Columbia Records Photo) 


In the Church of San Marco at Venice. (Columbia Records Photo) 

4: About Music Today 

R.C. What do you mean when you say that critics are in- 

7.S. I mean that they are not even equipped to judge one's 
grammar. They do not see how a musical phrase is 
constructed, do not know how music is written; they 
are incompetent in the technique of the contemporary 
musical language. Critics misinform the public and 
delay comprehension. Because of critics many valua- 
ble things come too late. Also, how often we read criti- 
cisms of first performances of new music—in which 
the critic praises or blames (but usually praises) 
performance. Performances are of something; they 
do not exist in the abstract, apart from the music 
they purport to perform. How can the critic know 
whether a piece of music he does not know is well 
or ill performed? 

R.C. What does "genius" mean to you? 

7.S. A "pathetic" term strictly; or, in literature, a propa- 
ganda word used by people who do not deserve ra- 
tional opposition. I detest it literarily and cannot read 
it in descriptive works without pain. If it doesn't al- 
ready appear in the Dictionnaire des Idees Regues, 
it should be put there, with, as its automatic re- 
sponses, "Michelangelo" and "Beethoven." 


Conversations with Igor Stravinsky 

R.C. What does "sincerity" mean to you? 

I.S. It is a sine qua non that at the same time guarantees 
nothing. Most artists are sincere anyway, and most 
art is bad— though, of course, some insincere art ( sin- 
cerely insincere) is quite good. One's belief that one 
is sincere is not so dangerous, however, as one's con- 
viction that one is right. We all feel we are right; 
but we felt the same way twenty years ago and to- 
day we know we weren't always right then. 

R.C. Would you "draw" your recent music? For example: 

h[*i* Chfitit 




(WAqHZ *») iVew sekausTs 

I.S. This is my music: 




R.C. You have often remarked that the period of harmonic 
discovery is over, that harmony is no longer open to 
exploration and exploitation. Would you explain? 

I.S. Harmony, a doctrine dealing with chords and chord 
relations, has had a brilliant but short history. This 
history shows that chords gradually abandoned their 
direct function of harmonic guidance and began to 
seduce with the individual splendors of their har- 
monic effects. Today harmonic novelty is at an end. 
As a medium of musical construction, harmony offers 
no further resources into which to inquire and from 
which to seek profit. The contemporary ear requires 
a completely different approach to music. It is one 
of nature's ways that we often feel closer to distant 
generations than to the generation immediately pre- 
ceding us. Therefore, the present generation's inter- 
ests are directed toward music before the "harmonic 
age." Rhythm, rhythmic polyphony, melodic or in- 
tervallic construction are the elements of musical 
building to be explored today. When I say that I still 
compose "harmonically" I mean to use the word in a 
special sense and without reference to chord relations. 

R.C. Isn't Busoni's famous "attempted definition of mel- 
ody" ( 1922) a fairly accurate prophecy of the melodic 
conception of many young composers today? "Mel- 
ody," he said, "is a series of repeated rising and falling 
intervals, which are subdivided and given move- 
ment by rhythm; containing a latent harmony within 
itself and giving out a mood-feeling; it can and does 


Conversations with Igor Stravinsky 

exist independently of words as an expression and 
independently of accompanying parts as a form; in 
its performance the choice of pitch and of the in- 
strument makes no difference to its essence." 
I.S. The last two points are the most remarkable, coming 
from Busoni. The idea that the actual pitch of the 
note is not so important in an absolute sense has 
been supplanted, to my mind, by the idea that pitch 
matters only because of the interval. Today the com- 
poser does not think of notes in isolation but of notes 
in their intervallic position in the series, in their 
dynamic, their octave, and their timbre. Apart from 
the series, notes are nothing; but in the series their 
recurrence, their pitch, their dynamic, their timbre, 
and their rhythmic relation determine form. The note 
functions only in the series. The form is serial, not 
only some or all of the musical elements that compose 
it. The individual note determines the form only as 
part of its group or order. 

R.C. Has any new development in the domain of rhythm 
caught your attention? 

I.S. The tempo controls— if tempo comes under the head- 
ing of rhythm— in the central movement of Le marteau 
sans maitre are an important innovation. In this move- 
ment the beat is accelerated or retarded to basic fast 
or slow metronome speeds with indications en route 
of exactly the speed one should be traveling. This 
amounts to controlled retard and accelerando. Used 
systematically, as in the Marteau, where you are 
never in a tempo but always going to one, these 
controls are able to effect a new and wonderfully sup- 
ple kind of music. 
The free-but-co-ordinated cadenzas in Stock- 


About Music Today 

hausen's Zeitmasse (I have not yet heard his Grup- 
pen for three orchestras) are also a rhythmic innova- 
tion of great value. 

In exploring the possibilities of variable meters 
young composers have contributed but little. In fact, 
I have seen no advance on the Sacre du Printemps, 
if I may mention that work, in all the half century 
since it was written. 

R.C. Do you know that a whole school of Klangfarben- 
melodie composers is flourishing at present? 

I.S. Most of that is the merest stylistic imitation, of course, 
and nothing could be more ephemeral. But the 
German word needs definition; it has come to mean 
too many things. For example, I don't think the 
"melodie" part of it is good or useful applied to a 
work such as Weberns Concerto and I am sure that 
in the same piece farben is less important than klang- 
design which isn't the same thing. 

If by Klangfarbenmelodie you mean no more than a 
line of music which is divided among two or more 
instruments, that habit has already reached a re- 
ductio ad absurdum. Looking at a ridiculously diffi- 
cult score recently— it was really the map of an idea 
that had begun not in musical composition but before 
it— I was reminded of a Russian band I knew in my 
childhood. This band was made up of twelve open- 
that is, valveless— horns. Each horn had one note to 
play and together they could produce the chromatic 
scale. They would practice hours and hours in order to 
surmount the rhythmic problems presented by simple 
melodies. I do not see the difference between the 
idea of this band of hunting horns and the idea of 
some of the Klangfarben scores I have seen. 


Conversations with Igor Stravinsky 

If a serious composer intends the lines of two or 
more instruments to produce one melodic line, I advise 
him to follow Elliott Carter's practice in his string 
Quartet and write out the one-line reduction as a 



R.C. Do you have an opinion about electronic music? 
LS. I think that the matiere is limited; more exactly, the 
composers have demonstrated but a very limited 
matiere in all the examples of electronic music I have 
heard. This is surprising because the possibilities as 
we know are astronomical. Another criticism I have is 
that the shortest pieces of electronic music seem end- 
less, and within those pieces we feel no time control. 

Therefore, the amount of repetition, imaginary or 
real, is excessive. 

Electronic composers are making a mistake, in my 
opinion, when they continue to employ significative 
noises in the manner of musique concrete. In Stock- 
hausen s Gesang der Junglinge, a work manifesting 
a strong personality and an indigenous feeling for 
the medium, I like the way the sound descends as 
though from auras, but the burbling fade-out noises 
and especially the organ are, I find, incongruous 
elements. Noises can be music, of course, but they 
ought not to be significative; music itself does not 
signify anything. 

What interests me most in electronic music so far 
is the notation, the "score/' 

R.C. In the music of Stockhausen and others of his gen- 
eration the elements of pitch, density, dynamics, 
duration, frequency (register), rhythm, timbre have 
been subjected to the serial- variation principle. How 
will the nonserial element of "surprise" be introduced 
in the rigid planning of this music? 


Conversations with Igor Stravinsky 

I.S. The problem that now besets the totalitarian serialist 
is how to compose "surprise" since by electronic com- 
puter it doesn't exist (though in fact it does, even if 
every case is computable; even at its worst, we lis- 
ten to music as music and not as a computing game ) . 
Some composers are inclined to turn the problem 
over to the performer— as Stockhausen does in Piano 
Piece No. XI. I myself am inclined to leave very 
little to the performers. I would not give them margin 
to play only half or selected fragments of my pieces. 
Also, I think it inconsistent to have controlled every- 
thing so minutely and then leave the ultimate shape 
of the piece to a performer (while pretending that 
all possible shapes have been allowed for). 

R.C. Do you think there is a danger at present of novelty 
for its own sake? 

I.S. Not really. Nevertheless, certain festivals of contem- 
porary music by their very nature cannot help but 
encourage mere novelty. And by a curious reversal of 
tradition, some critics encourage it too. The classic 
situation in which conservative and academic critics 
deride the composer's innovations is no more. Now 
composers can hardly keep up with the demands of 
some critics to "make it new." Novelties sometimes 
result that could not interest anyone twice. I am more 
cautious of the power of the acclaimers than of the 
disclaimers, of those critics who hail on principle 
what they cannot possibly contact directly with their 
own ears or understanding. This is musical politics, 
not music. Critics, like composers, must know what 
they love. Anything else is pose and propaganda, or 
what D. H. Lawrence called, "would-be." 



R.C. Isn't the general public everywhere just as isolated 
from contemporary music since about 1909 as the 
Soviet Union? 

I.S. Not everywhere; not in Germany where, for example, 
my own later music is performed almost as frequently 
for the general public as are Strauss and Sibelius 
in the U.S. But the year 1909 means "atonality," and 
"atonality" did create a hiatus which Marxists explain 
as a problem of social pressures when in fact it was 
an irresistible pull within the art. 

R.C. Do you wish to say anything about patronage? 

I.S. Haphazard patronage, whether or not it is better than 
systematic patronage, is extremely inadequate. It 
called into being all of the music of Schoenberg, Berg, 
Webern, Bartok, and myself, though most of our music 
was not called into being at all but only written and 
left to compete against more conventional types of 
music in the commercial market. This is part of the 
reason why four of those composers died in mid- 
twentieth century in humiliating circumstances, or 
at least in circumstances that were far from affluent. 
This kind of patronage has not changed in a hundred 
and fifty years except that today there seems to be 
less of it. 

R.C. Do you know the present status of your music east of 

I.S. Friends who attended the Warsaw Conference of 

Contemporary Music in October 1956 say that my 


Conversations with Igor Stravinsky 

music was officially boycotted there but enthusi- 
astically received, nevertheless, by composers from 
the Soviet sphere. My music is unobtainable— all of it 
and in any form, disc or printed score— east of NATO; 
not only my music but Webern's, Schoenberg's, Berg's, 
as well. Russia's musical isolation— she will call it our 
isolation— is at least thirty years old. We hear much 
about Russian virtuoso violinists, pianists, orchestras. 
The point is, of what are they virtuosi? Instruments 
are nothing in themselves; the literature they play 
creates them. The mandolin and guitar, for instance, 
did not exist until Schoenberg imagined them in an 
entirely new way in his Serenade. A new musical 
masterpiece of that kind is a demand that musicians 
be created to play it. The Soviet virtuoso has no 
literature beyond the nineteenth century. 

I am often asked if I would consent to conduct in the 
Soviet Union. For purely musical reasons I could not. 
Their orchestras do not perform the music of the three 
Viennese and myself, and they would be, I am sure, 
unable to cope with the simplest problems of rhythmic 
execution that we introduced to music fifty years ago. 
The style of my music would also be alien to them. 
These difficulties are not to be overcome in a few 
rehearsals; they require a twenty- or thirty-year tra- 
dition. I discovered something of the same situation 
in Germany at the end of the war. After so many 
years of Hitler, in which my Histoire du Soldat, 
Schoenberg's Pierrot Lunaire, Berg's and Webern's 
music were banned, the musicians were unable for 
a long time to play the new music, though they have 
certainly more than made up for it since. 

It is the same thing with ballet. A ballet exists in 
its repertoire as much as, or more than, in the tech- 


About Music Today 

nical perfection of its dancers. The repertoire is a few 
nineteenth-century ballets. These and sentimental, 
realist, Technicolor Kitsch are all the Soviets do. 
Ballet in this century means the Diaghilev repertory 
and the creations of the very few good choreographers 

R.C.You have known American musical life since 1925; 
would you comment on any aspect of its development 
since then? 

I.S. I hope I am wrong, but I fear that in some ways the 
American composer is more isolated today than he 
was in 1925. He has at present a strong tendency to 
say, "We'll leave all of that avant garde stuff to Europe 
and develop our own musical style, an American 
style." The result of having already done that is now 
clear in the way the "intellectual advanced stuff" 
( some of it, that is, for at least 99 per cent of all avant 
garde products are transparent puerilities) is embar- 
rassing everybody; compared to Webern, for example, 
most of our simple homespun "American style" is 
fatuous in expression and in technique the vilest 
cliche. In the phrase "American Music," "American" 
not only robs emphasis from "music" but it asks for 
lower standards. Of course, good music that has 
grown up here will be American. 

We have no capital for new music as New York was 
a capital in 1925. Look at the League of Composers' 
programs of the 1920s and see if anything comparable 
is taking place in New York at the present. Of course, 
more contemporary music is played there now, and 
more American music, but the really consequential, 
controversial, new music is not played and it was 
then. True, we have those wonderful orchestras, but 
they are growing flabby on their diet of repertoire 


Conversations tvith Igor Stravinsky 

and second-rate new music— too much sugar. Recently 
I was asked to conduct two programs with one of the 
glamorous American orchestras. But my programs 
were rejected and the engagement canceled because 
I refused to play Tchaikovsky instead of a program 
entirely of my own music. This could not happen in 
Europe and at this date it shouldn't happen here. 
Boards of directors and managers must stop assum- 
ing that their limited educations and tastes are re- 
liable gauges for an audience's. An audience is an 
abstraction; it has no taste. It must depend on the 
only person who has (pardon, should have), the con- 

The United States as a whole has certainly a far 
richer musical life today, with first-rate orchestras 
everywhere and good opera production in places like 
San Francisco, Santa Fe, Chicago, and the univer- 
sities. But the crux of a vital musical society is new 



R.C. What is your attitude to jazz? 

l.S. Jazz is a different fraternity altogether, a wholly dif- 
ferent kind of music making. It has nothing to do 
with composed music and when it seeks to be in- 
fluenced by contemporary music it isn't jazz and it 
isn't good. Improvisation has its own time world, 
necessarily a loose and large one, since only in an 
imprecisely limited time could real improvisation be 
worked up to; the stage has to be set, and there must 
be heat. The percussion and bass (not the piano; 
that instrument is too hybrid, and besides most of 
the players have just discovered Debussy) function as 
a central heating system. They must keep the tem- 
perature "cool," not cool. It is a kind of masturbation 
that never arrives anywhere (of course) but that 
supplies the "artificial" genesis the art requires. The 
point of interest is instrumental virtuosity, instru- 
mental personality, not melody, not harmony, and 
certainly not rhythm. Rhythm doesn't exist really 
because no rhythmic proportion or relaxation exists. 
Instead of rhythm there is "beat." The players beat 
all the time, merely to keep up and to know which 
side of the beat they are on. The ideas are instru- 
mental, or, rather, they aren't ideas because they 
come after, come from the instruments. Shorty Rog- 
ers's trumpet playing is an example of what I mean 
by instrumental derivation, though his trumpet is 
really a deep-bored, bugle-sounding instrument which 
reminds me of the keyed bugles I liked so much and 


Conversations ivith Igor Stravinsky 

wrote for in the first version of Les Noces. * His 
patterns are instrumental: half -valve effects with lip 
glissandi, intervals and runs that derive from the 
fingers, "trills" on one note, for example, G to G on 
a B-flat instrument (between open and first-and-third 
fingers ) , etc. 

As an example of what I have said about timing, I 
can listen to Shorty Rogers's good style, with its 
dotted-note tradition, for stretches of fifteen minutes 
and more and not feel the time at all, whereas the 
weight of every "serious" virtuoso I know depresses 
me beyond the counteraction of Equanil in about 
five. Has jazz influenced me? Jazz patterns and es- 
pecially jazz instrumental combinations did influence 
me forty years ago, of course, but not the idea of 
jazz. As I say, that is another world. I don't follow it 
but I respect it. It can be an art of very touching dig- 
nity, as it is in the New Orleans jazz funerals. And, at 
its rare best, it is certainly the best musical entertain- 
ment in the U.S. 

* Hearing Mr. Rogers play this instrument in Los Angeles last 
year perhaps influenced me to use it in Threni. 



R.C. Do you agree that in some cases the composer should 
indicate how he wishes the conductor to beat his 

I.S. I think he should always indicate the unit of the beat 
and whether or not a subdivision is to be felt. Also, 
he should show whether the conductor is to beat the 
beat or the rhythmic shape of the music, if that shape 
is against the beat. For example, the triplets, three 
in the time of four, in Webern's Das Augenlicht and 
in my Surge Aquilo: I contend that to beat three here 
(in other words, to beat the music) is to lose the 
"in the time of four" feeling, and instead of a triplet 
feeling you have merely a three-beat bar in a new 

R.C. Do you agree with Schoenberg's premise that a good 
composition is playable in only one tempo? ( Schoen- 
berg's example of a piece of music of uncertain tempo 
was the Austrian hymn from Haydn's Emperor Quar- 

I.S. I think that any musical composition must necessarily 
possess its unique tempo ( pulsation ) : the variety of 
tempi comes from performers who often are not very 
familiar with the composition they perform or feel a 
personal interest in interpreting it. In the case of 
Haydn s famous melody, if there is any uncertainty in 
the tempo the fault is in the alarming behavior of its 
numerous interpreters. 

R.C. Have you ever considered whether a piece of "classic" 


Conversations tvith Igor Stravinsky 

music is more difficult to kill by misperf ormance than 
a "romantic" piece? 
I.S. It depends, of course, on what we decide to mean by 
those divisions and also on the kinds and degrees of 
misperf ormance. Let us take refuge in examples, con- 
temporary ones, preferably. My Agon and Berg's Kam- 
merkonzert divide, I should think, on most of the 
characteristic issues we imagine to determine those 

The Kammerkonzert depends strongly on mood or 
interpretation. Unless mood dominates the whole, the 
parts do not relate, the form is not achieved, detail is 
not suffused, and the music fails to say what it has 
to say— for "romantic" pieces are presumed to have 
messages beyond the purely musical messages of their 
notes. The romantic piece is always in need of a "per- 
fect" performance. By "perfect" one means inspired 
—rather than strict or correct. In fact, considerable 
fluctuations in tempo are possible in a "romantic" 
piece (metronomes are marked circa in the Berg, and 
performance times sometimes diverge as much as ten 
minutes ) . There are other freedoms as well, and "free- 
dom" itself must be conveyed by the performer of a 
"romantic" piece. 

It is interesting to note that conductors' careers 
are made for the most part with "romantic" music. 
"Classic" music eliminates the conductor; we do not 
remember him in it and we think we need him for his 
metier alone, not for his mediumistic abilities— I am 
speaking of my music. 

But does all of this turned around fit the contrary? 
Perhaps, though the question of degree is important, 
for the characteristics of each category apply at some 
point to both. For example, when a conductor has 


About Music Today 

ruined a piece of mine, having failed to convey a 
sense of "freedom" and 'mood/' let him not tell me 
that these things are joined exclusively to another 
kind of music. 

R.C.What do you regard as the principal performance 
problems of your music? 

I.S. Tempo is the principal item. A piece of mine can 
survive almost anything but wrong or uncertain 
tempo. ( To anticipate your next question, yes, a tempo 
can be metronomically wrong but right in spirit, 
though obviously the metronomic margin cannot be 
very great. ) And not only my music, of course. What 
does it matter if the trills, the ornamentation, and the 
instruments themselves are all correct in the perform- 
ance of a Bach concerto if the tempo is absurd? I 
have often said that my music is to be "read," to be 
"executed," but not to be "interpreted." I will say it 
still, because I see in it nothing that requires inter- 
pretation ( I am trying to sound immodest, not mod- 
est). But, you will protest, stylistic questions in my 
music are not conclusively indicated by the notation; 
my style requires interpretation. This is true and it is 
also why I regard my recordings as indispensable 
supplements to the printed music. But that isn't the 
kind of "interpretation" my critics mean. What they 
would like to know is whether the bass clarinet re- 
peated notes at the end of the first movement of my 
Symphony in Three Movements might be interpreted 
as "laughter." Let us suppose I agree that it is meant 
to be "laughter"; what difference could this make to 
the performer? Notes are still intangible. They are 
not symbols but signs. 

The stylistic performance problem in my music is 
one of articulation and rhythmic diction. Nuance 


Conversations with Igor Stravinsky 

depends on these. Articulation is mainly separation, 
and I can give no better example of what I mean by 
it than to refer the reader to W. B. Yeats's recording 
of three of his poems. Yeats pauses at the end of each 
line, he dwells a precise time on and in between each 
word— one could as easily notate his verses in musical 
rhythm as scan them in poetic meters. 

For fifty years I have endeavored to teach musi- 
cians to play 

ST t* %/ +/ +/ instead of *p 

in certain cases, depending on the style. I have also 
labored to teach them to accent syncopated notes 
and to phrase before them in order to do so. ( German 
orchestras are as unable to do this, so far, as the 
Japanese are unable to pronounce "L". ) In the per- 
formance of my music, simple questions like this con- 
sume half of my rehearsals: when will musicians learn 
to abandon the tied-into note, to lift from it, and not 
to rush the sixteenth notes afterwards? These are ele- 
mentary things, but solfeggio is still at an elementary 
level. And why should solfeggio be taught, when it 
is taught, as a thing apart from style? Isn't this why 
Mozart concertos are still played as though they 
were Tchaikovsky concertos? 

The chief performance problem of new music is 
rhythmic. For example, a piece like Dallapiccola's 
Cinque Canti contains no interval problems of instru- 
mental technique (its cross shapes in the manner of 
George Herbert are for the eye and present no aural 
problems; one does not hear musically shaped 
crosses). The difficulties are entirely rhythmic, and 


About Music Today 

the average musician has to learn such a piece bar 
by bar. He has not got beyond Le Sacre du Printemps, 
if he has got that far. He cannot play simple triplets, 
much less subdivisions of them. Difficult new music 
must be studied in schools, even if only as exercises 
in reading. 

Myself as a conductor? Well, reviewers have cer- 
tainly resisted me in that capacity for forty years, in 
spite of my recordings, in spite of my special quali- 
fications for knowing what the composer wants, and 
my perhaps one thousand times greater experience 
conducting my music than anyone else. Last year 
Time called my San Marco performance of my 
Canticum Sacrum "Murder in the Cathedral." Now 
I don't mind my music going on trial, for if I'm to 
keep my position as a promising young composer I 
must accept that; but how could Time or anybody 
know whether I ably conducted a work I alone knew? 
( In London, shortly after the Time episode, I was at 
tea one day with Mr. Eliot, being tweaked by a 
story of his, when my wife asked that kindest, wisest, 
and gentlest of men did he know what he had in 
common with me. Mr. Eliot examined his nose; he 
regarded me and then reflected on himself— tall, 
hunched, and with an American gait; he pondered the 
possible communalities of our arts. When my wife 
said "Murder in the Cathedral," the great poet was 
so disconcerted he made me feel he would rather not 
have written this opus theatricum than have its title 
loaned to insult me. ) 

R.C. Do you agree that perhaps the composer should try 
to notate "style" more precisely? For example, in the 
finale of your Octuor, the bassoons play eighth notes 


Conversations with Igor Stravinsky 

with dots; wouldn't it have been more exact to write 
sixteenth notes followed by rests? 
I.S. I do not believe that it is possible to convey a com- 
plete or lasting conception of style purely by notation. 
Some elements must always be transmitted by the 
performer, bless him. In the case of the Octuor, for 
example, if I had written sixteenth notes, the problem 
of their length, whether they should be cut off on or 
before the rests would be substituted for the original 
problem, and imagine reading all those flags I 

R.C. Have you noticed any influence of electronic tech- 
nique on the compositions by the new serial com- 

I.S. Yes, in several ways; and the electronic technique 
of certain composers interests me far more in their 
"live" compositions than in their electronic ones. To 
mention only one influence, electronic music has made 
composers more aware of range problems (in elec- 
tronic music, after all, an octave higher does mean 
twice as fast). But here again, Webern was ahead 
in realizing that the same material, if it is to be worked 
out on equal levels, must be limited to four or five 
octaves (Webern extended beyond that only for im- 
portant outlines of the form). But electronic music 
has influenced rhythm (for example, that curious 
sound which trails off into slower and slower dots), 
articulation, and many items of texture, dynamics, 

R.C. Which of your recorded performances do you prefer; 
which do you consider definitive? 

I.S. I cannot evaluate my records for the reason that I am 
always too busy with new works to have time to 
listen to them. However, a composer is not as easily 


About Music Today 

satisfied with recordings of his works as a performer 
is satisfied for him, in his name, and this is true even 
when the composer and the performer are the same 
person. The composer fears that errors will become 
authentic copy and that one possible performance, 
one set of variables will be accepted as the only one. 
First recordings are standard-setting and we are too 
quickly accustomed to them. But to the composer- 
conductor the advantage of being able to anticipate 
performances of his new works with his own record- 
ings outweighs all complaints. For one thing, the 
danger of the middle musician is reduced. For an- 
other, the time lag in disseminating new music has 
been cut from a generation or two to six months or a 
year. If a work like he Marteau sans Maitre had 
been written before the present era of recording it 
would have reached young musicians outside of the 
principal cities only years later. As it is, this same 
Marteau, considered so difficult to perform a few 
years ago, is now within the technique of many 
players, thanks to their being taught by record. 

But the public is still too little aware that the word 
"performance" applied to recording is often extremely 
euphemistic. Instead of 'performing" a piece, the 
recording artist "breaks it down." He records accord- 
ing to the size (cost) of the orchestra. Thus Haydn's 
Farewell Symphony would be recorded from the be- 
ginning to the end in order; but Bolero would be done 
backwards, so to speak, if it were sectionally divisible. 
Another problem is that the orchestra is seated ac- 
cording to the acoustical arrangement required by 
the engineering. This means that the orchestra does 
not always sound like an orchestra to the orchestra. 

I still prefer productions to reproductions. (No 


Conversations with Igor Stravinsky 

photograph matches the colors of the original, nor 
is any phonographed sound the same as live sound; 
and we know from experience that in five years new 
processes and equipment will make us despise what 
we now accept as good enough imitations.) But the 
reproduced repertoire is so much greater than the 
produced, concerts are no longer any competition at 



R.C. Your Mass, Canticum Sacrum, and Threni are the 
strongest challenges in two hundred years to the de- 
cline of the Church as a musical institution. 

I.S. I wish they were effective challenges. I had hoped my 
Mass would be used liturgically, but I have no such 
aspiration for the Threni, which is why I call it, not 
Tenebrae Service but Lamentations. Whether or not 
the Church was the wisest patron— though I think 
it was; we commit fewer musical sins in church— it 
was rich in musical forms. How much poorer we are 
without the sacred musical services, without the 
Masses, the Passions, the round-the-calendar cantatas 
of the Protestants, the motets and sacred concerts, 
and vespers and so many others. These are not merely 
defunct forms but parts of the musical spirit in disuse. 
The Church knew what the Psalmist knew: music 
praises God. Music is as well or better able to praise 
Him than the building of the church and all its 
decoration; it is the Church's greatest ornament. 
Glory, glory, glory; the music of Orlando Lasso's 
motet praises God, and this particular "glory" does 
not exist in secular music. And not only glory— though 
I think of it first because the glory of the Laudate, 
the joy of the Doxology, are all but extinct— but prayer 
and penitence and many others cannot be secular- 
ized. The spirit disappears with the form. I am not 
comparing "emotional range" or "variety" in sacred 
and secular music. The music of the nineteenth and 
twentieth centuries— it is all secular— is "expressively" 


Conversations with Igor Stravinsky 

and "emotionally" beyond anything in the music of 
the earlier centuries: the Angst in Lulu, for instance- 
gory, gory, gory— or the tension, the perpetuation of 
the moment of epitasis, in Schoenberg's music. I say 
simply that, without the Church, "left to our own 
devices," we are poorer by many musical forms. 

When I call the nineteenth century "secular" I 
mean by it to distinguish between religious-religious 
music and secular-religious music. The latter is in- 
spired by humanity in general, by art, by Vber- 
mensch, by goodness, and by goodness knows what. 
Religious music without religion is almost always vul- 
gar. It can also be dull. There is dull church music 
from Hucbald to Haydn, but not vulgar church mu- 
sic. ( Of course there is vulgar church music now, but 
it is not really of or for the Church. ) I hope, too, that 
my sacred music is a protest against the Platonic 
tradition, which has been the Church's tradition 
through Plotinus and Erigena, of music as antimoral. 
Of course Lucifer had music. Ezekiel refers to his 
"tabrets and pipes" and Isaiah to the "noise of his 
viols." But Lucifer took his music with him from 
Paradise, and even in Hell, as Bosch shows, music is 
able to represent Paradise and become the "bride of 
the cosmos." 

"It has been corrupted by musicians," is the 
Church's answer, the Church, whose musical history 
is a series of attacks against polyphony, the true mu- 
sical expression of Western Christendom, until music 
retires from it in the eighteenth century or confounds 
it with the theater. The corrupting musicians Bosch 
means are probably Josquin and Okeghem, the cor- 
rupting artifacts the polyphonic marvels of Josquin, 
Ockeghem, Compere, Brumel. 


About Music Today 

R.C. Must one be a believer to compose in these forms? 

LS. Certainly, and not merely a believer in "symbolic 
figures," but in the Person of the Lord, the Person of 
the Devil, and the Miracles of the Church. 



R.C. Of your works, the young avant-garde admire Le Sacre 
du Printemps, the Three Japanese Lyrics, various of 
the Russian songs, Renard, and the Symphonies of 
Wind Instruments. They react strongly against your 
so-called neoclassic music, however ( Apollo, the piano 
Concerto, Jeu de Cartes, etc.), and though they af- 
firm your more recent music they complain that 
triadic harmonies and tonic cadences are solecisms 
in the backward direction of the tonal system. What 
do you say to all this? 

I.S. Let me answer the latter complaint first: my recent 
works are composed in the— my— tonal system. These 
composers are more concerned with direction than 
with realistic judgments of music. This is as it should 
be. But in any case they could not have followed the 
twenty years of their immediate forebears, they had 
to find new antecedents. A change in direction does 
not mean that the out-of -influence is worthless, how- 
ever. In science, where each new scientific truth cor- 
rects some prior truth, it does sometimes mean that. 
But in music advance is only in the sense of develop- 
ing the instrument of the language— we are able to 
do new things in rhythm, in sound, in structure. We 
claim greater concentration in certain ways and there- 
fore contend that we have evolved, in this one sense, 
progressively. But a step in this evolution does not 
cancel the one before. Mondrian's series of trees can 
be seen as a study of progress from the more "re- 
semblant" to the more abstract; but no one would be 
so silly as to call any of the trees more or less beautiful 


About Music Today 

than any other for the reason that it is more or less 
abstract. If my music from Apollo and Oedipus to 
The Rake's Progress did not continue to explore in 
the direction that interests the younger generation 
today, these pieces will nonetheless continue to exist. 
Every age is an historical unity. It may never appear 
as anything but either/or to its partisan contempo- 
raries, of course, but semblance is gradual, and in 
time either and or come to be components of the 
same thing. For instance, "neoclassic" now begins 
to apply to all of the between-the-war composers 
( not that notion of the neoclassic composer as some- 
one who rifles his predecessors and each other and 
then arranges the theft in a new "style") . The music of 
Schoenberg, Berg, and Webern in the twenties was 
considered extremely iconoclastic at that time but 
the composers now appear to have used musical form 
as I did, "historically/' My use of it was overt, how- 
ever, and theirs elaborately disguised. ( Take, for ex- 
ample, the Rondo of Webern's Trio; the music is won- 
derfully interesting but no one hears it as a Rondo. ) 
We all explored and discovered new music in the 
twenties, of course, but we attached it to the very 
tradition we were so busily outgrowing a decade 

R.C. What music delights you most today? 

7.S. I play the English virginalists with never-failing de- 
light. I also play Couperin, Bach cantatas too numer- 
ous to distinguish, Italian madrigals even more numer- 
ous, Schutz sinfoniae sacrae pieces, and masses by 
Josquin, Ockeghem, Obrecht, and others. Haydn 
quartets and symphonies, Beethoven quartets, sona- 
tas, and especially symphonies like the Second, 
Fourth, and Eighth, are sometimes wholly fresh and 


Conversations with Igor Stravinsky 

delightful to me. Of the music of this century I am still 
most attracted by two periods of Webern: the later in- 
strumental works, and the songs he wrote after the 
first twelve opus numbers and before the Trio— music 
which escaped the danger of the too great preciosity 
of the earlier pieces and which is perhaps the richest 
Webern ever wrote. I do not say that the late cantatas 
are a decline— quite the contrary— but their sentiment 
is alien to me, and I prefer the instrumental works. 
People who do not share my feeling for this music 
will wonder at my attitude. So I explain: Webern is 
for me the juste de la musique, and I do not hesitate 
to shelter myself by the beneficent protection of his 
not yet canonized art. 

R.C. What piece of music has most attracted you from a 
composer of the younger generation? 

I.S. Le Marteau sans Maitre, by Pierre Boulez. The ordi- 
nary musician's trouble in judging composers like 
Boulez and the young German Stockhausen is that 
he doesn't see their roots. These composers have 
sprung full-grown. With Webern, for example, we 
trace his origins back to the musical traditions of 
the nineteenth and earlier centuries. But the ordi- 
nary musician is not aware of Webern. He asks ques- 
tions like, "What sort of music would Boulez and 
Stockhausen write if they were asked to write tonal 
music?" It will be a considerable time before the 
value of Le Marteau sans Maitre is recognized. Mean- 
while I shall not explain my admiration for it but 
adapt Gertrude Stein's answer when asked why she 
liked Picasso's paintings: "I like to look at them." I 
like to listen to Boulez. 

R.C. What do you actually "hear" vertically in music such 


About Music Today 

as Boulez's Deux Improvisations sur MallarmS or he 
Marteau sans Maitre? 
I.S. "Hear" is a very complicated word. In a purely acous- 
tical sense I hear everything played or sounded. In 
another sense, too, I am aware of everything played. 
But you mean, really, what tonal relationships am I 
conscious of, what does my ear analyze, and does it 
filter the pitches of all the individual notes? Your 
question implies that you still seek to relate the notes 
tonally; that you are looking for a "key" that will 
enable you to do so ( like Hardy's Jude, who imagined 
that Greek was only a different pronunciation of 
English). However, all that the ear can be aware of 
in this sense is density (nobody under thirty— and 
only rare antediluvians like myself over thirty— uses 
the word "harmony" any more but only "density"). 
And density has become a strict serial matter, an 
element for variation and permutation like any other; 
according to one's system one gets from two to twelve 
notes in the vertical aggregation. ( Is this mathemati- 
cal? Of course it is, but the composer composes the 
mathematics. ) All of this goes back to Webern, who 
understood the whole problem of variable densities 
(a fact so remarkable that I wonder if even Webern 
knew who Webern was). But the question of har- 
monic hearing is an older one, of course. Every or- 
dinary listener (if there is any such extraordinary 
creature) has been troubled by harmonic hearing in 
the music of the Vienna school from circa 1909— in 
Erwartung, for example. He hears all of the notes 
acoustically but cannot analyze their harmonic struc- 
ture. The reason is, of course, that this music isn't 
harmonic in the same way. (In the case of the 


Conversations with Igor Stravinsky 

Erwartung recording there is another reason too; the 
vocal part is sung off pitch most of the time. ) 

Do I hear the chord structure of these nonharmonic- 
bass chords? It is difficult to say exactly what I do 
hear. For one thing it is a question of practice (while 
perhaps not entirely a question of practice). But 
whatever the limits of hearing and awareness are, I 
shouldn't like to have to define them. We already 
hear a great deal more in the harmony of these non- 
tonal-system harmonic pieces. For example, I now 
hear the whole first movement of Weberns Symphony 
tonally (not just the famous C-minor place), and 
melodically I think everyone hears it more nearly 
tonally now than twenty years ago. Also, young people 
born to this music are able to hear more of it than we 

The Boulez music? Parts of the Marteau are not dif- 
ficult to hear in toto; the "bourreaux de solitude," for 
instance, which resembles the first movement of the 
Webern Symphony. With a piece like "apres l'artisanat 
f urieux," however, one follows the line of only a single 
instrument and is content to be "aware of" the others. 
Perhaps later the second line and the third will be 
familiar, but one mustn't try to hear them in the 
tonal-harmonic sense. What is "aware of?" Instru- 
mentalists often ask that question: "If we leave out 
such and such bits, who will know?" The answer is 
that one does know. Many people today are too ready 
to condemn a composer for "not being able to hear 
what he has written." In fact, if he is a real composer, 
he always does hear, at least by calculation, every- 
thing he writes. Tallis calculated the forty parts of 
his Spem in Alium Nunquam Habui, he did not 
hear them; and even in twelve-part polyphony such 


About Music Today 

as Orlando's, vertically we hear only four-part music. 
I even wonder if in complicated Renaissance polyph- 
ony the singers knew where they were in relation 
to each other— which shows how good their rhythmic 
training must have been ( to maintain such independ- 
ence ) . 

R.C. How do you understand Anton Webern's remark: 
"Don't write music entirely by ears. Your ears will 
always guide you all right, but you must know why." 

I.S. Webern was not satisfied with the— from one point 
of view— passive act of hearing: his music requires 
that the hearer, whether composer or listener, make 
cognizant relations of what he hears: "You must know 
why." It obliges the hearer to become a listener, 
summons him to active relations with music. 



R.C. Young composers are exploring dynamics; what kind 
of new use of them may we expect? 

LS. An example of the kind of dynamic use we might 
anticipate is in Stockhausen's Zeitmasse. In that piece, 
at bar 187, a chord is sustained in all five instruments, 
but the intensities of the individual instruments con- 
tinue to change throughout the duration of the chord: 
the oboe begins ppp and makes a short crescendo 
to p at the end: the flute diminuendos slowly from 
p, then crescendos a little more quickly to p, where it 
remains through the last third of the bar; the English 
horn crescendos slowly, then more quickly, from ppp 
to mp, and diminuendos symmetrically; the clarinet 
sustains p, then slowly diminuendos from it. 

Such dynamic exploitation is not new, of course— 
a serial use of dynamics as well as of articulation, 
a related subject and just as important, is already 
clearly indicated in Webern's Concerto for Nine 
Instruments— but I think electronic instruments, and 
especially electronic control might carry it much far- 
ther. I myself employ dynamics for various purposes 
and in various ways, but always to emphasize and 
articulate musical ideas: I have never regarded them 
as exploitable in themselves. In places such as the 
tenor ricercare in my Cantata I ignore volume almost 
altogether. Perhaps my experience as a performer 
has persuaded me that circumstances are so differ- 
ent as to require every score to be re-marked for 
every performance. However, a general scale of dy- 


About Music Today 

namic relationships—there are no absolute dynam- 
ics—must be clear in the performers mind. 

The inflections of a constantly changing dynamic 
register are alien to my music. I do not breathe in 
ritardandos or accelerandos, diminuendos or cre- 
scendos, in every phrase. And infinitely subtle gradu- 
ations— pianissimi at the limits of audibility and be- 
yond—are suspect to me. My musical structure does 
not depend on dynamics— though my "expression" 
employs them. I stand on this point in contrast to 

R.C. Will you make any prediction about the "music of the 
future ? w 

I.S. There may be add-a-part electronic sonatas, of course, 
and precomposed symphonies ("Symphonies for the 
Imagination"— you buy a tone row, complete with 
slide rules for duration, pitch, timbre, rhythm, and 
calculus tables to chart what happens in bar 12 or 
73 or 200 ) , and certainly all music will be mood-classi- 
fied (kaleidoscopic montages for contortuplicate per- 
sonalities, simultaneous concerts binaurally disaligned 
to soothe both men in the schizophrenic, etc.), but 
mostly it will very much resemble "the music of the 
present": for the man in the satellite— super-hi-fi 

R.C. Do you think it likely that the masterpiece of the 
next decade will be composed in serial technique? 

I.S. Nothing is likely about masterpieces, least of all 
whether there will be any. Nevertheless, a master- 
piece is more likely to happen to the composer with 
the most highly developed language. This language 
is serial at present, and though our contemporary 
development of it could be tangential to an evolution 


Conversations with Igor Stravinsky 

we do not yet see, for us this doesn't matter. Its 
resources have enlarged the present language and 
changed our perspective in it. Developments in lan- 
guage are not easily abandoned, and the composer 
who fails to take account of them may lose the main- 
stream. Masterpieces aside, it seems to me the new 
music will be serial. 



R.C. Will you offer any cautions to young composers? 

I.S. A composer is or isn't; he cannot learn to acquire the 
gift that makes him one, and whether he has it or 
not, in either case, he will not need anything I can 
tell him. The composer will know that he is one if 
composition creates exact appetites in him and if in 
satisfying them he is aware of their exact limits. Simi- 
larly, he will know he is not one if he has only a 
"desire to compose'' or "wish to express himself in 
music." These appetites determine weight and size. 
They are more than manifestations of personality, 
are in fact indispensable human measurements. In 
much new music, however, we do not feel these di- 
mensions, which is why it seems to "flee music," to 
touch it and rush away, like the mujik who, when 
asked what he would do if he was made Tsar, said, "I 
would steal one hundred roubles and run as fast as I 

I would warn young composers too, Americans 
especially, against university teaching. However pleas- 
ant and profitable to teach counterpoint at a rich 
American Gymnasium like Smith or Vassar, I am 
not sure that that is the right background for a 
composer. The numerous young people on university 
faculties who write music and who fail to develop 
into composers cannot blame their university careers, 
of course, and there is no pattern for the real composer, 
anyway. The point is, however, that teaching is aca- 
demic (Webster: "Literary . . . rather than technical 
or professional . . . Conforming to . . . rules . . . 


Conversations with Igor Stravinsky 

conventional . . . Theoretical and not expected to 
produce ... a practical result"), which means that 
it may not be the right contrast for a composer's 
noncomposing time. The real composer thinks about 
his work the whole time; he is not always conscious of 
this but he is aware of it later, when he suddenly 
knows what he will do. 

R.C. Do you allow that some of the new "experimental" 
composers might be going "too far?" 

I.S. "Experiment" means something in the sciences; it 
means nothing at all in musical composition. No good 
musical composition could be merely "experimental"; 
it is music or it isn't. It must be heard and judged 
like any other. A successful "experiment" in musical 
composition would be as great a failure as an un- 
successful one, if it were no more than an experiment. 
But in your question, the question that interests me 
is the one which implies the drawing of lines: 
"Thus far and no farther; beyond this point music 
cannot go." I suppose psychology has studied the 
effects of various types of challenges on various groups 
and I suppose it knows what are normal responses 
and when they occur— in this case, when one begins 
to seek defense from new ideas and to rationalize 
them away. I have no information about this. But, I 
have all around me the spectacle of composers who, 
after their generation has had its decade of influence 
and fashion, seal themselves off from further develop- 
ment and from the next generation. (As I say this, 
exceptions come to mind— Krenek, for instance.) Of 
course, it requires greater effort to learn from one's 
juniors, and their manners are not invariably good. 
But when you are seventy-five and your generation 
has overlapped with four younger ones, it behooves 


About Music Today 

you not to decide in advance "how far composers 
can go," but to try to discover whatever new thing 
it is makes the new generation new. 

The very people who have done the breaking 
through are themselves often the first to try to put a 
scab on their achievement. What fear tells them to 
cry halt? What security do they seek, and how can 
it be secure if it is limited? How can they forget 
that they once fought against what they have be- 



(S) Stands for Stravinsky 

Abeilles, Les (S), 40-41 
Agon (S), 23, 134 
Aleko (ballet music by Tchai- 
kovsky), 114 
Alexander III, Tsar, 92-93 
Altenberg Lieder (Berg), 30 
Ansermet, Ernest, 58 
Apollo (S), 15, 17, 23, 115, 144, 

Apologie de la Danse (de 

Lauze), 19 
Argutinsky, Prince Vladimir, 116 
Ariadne auf Naxos (Strauss), 


Auberjonois, Ren6, 63, 64 
Auden, W. H., 15, 35, 86, 87 
Augenlicht, Das (Webern), 133 
Augures Printanidres, Les (Sacre 
du Printemps, S), 47 

Bach, J. S., 25, 30-31, 78, 135, 

Bakst, 96, 108-9, n°> m 
Balakirev, 38, 43, 46 
Balla, 103, 104, 105 
Balthus, 112 

Balustrade (ballet, S), 114 
Barber of Seville (reduction for 

two pianos, Schoenberg), 77 
Bartok, 82, 127 
Bauchant, Andre, 115 
Beethoven, 27-28, 39, 99, 119, 

Benois, 70, 107, 109-10 
Berard, Christian, 115 

Berg, 30, 77, 79-82, 127, 128, 

134, 145 
Berlioz, 27, 28 
Berman, Eugene, 25, 109 
Bessel (publisher), 66 
Blanche, J.-E., 113 
Bluebird, The (Maeterlinck), 

Blue Facade (Mondrian), 16 
Boccioni, 103, 105 
Bocklin, Arnold, 84 
Bohdme, La (Puccini), 68 
Bolero (Ravel), 139 
Bonnard, 96 
Boris Godunov (Moussorgsky), 

Borodin, 43 

Bosch, Hieronymus, 142 
Bosset, Vera de, 114; see also 

Boulez, Pierre, 23, 31-32, 146, 

147, 148 
Boutique Fantasque, La (ballet, 

Rossini-Respighi), 112 
Brahms, 27, 43-44, 78 
Brancusi, 102, 115 
Braque, 115 
Brumel, Antoine, 142 
Busoni, 99, 121-22 

Cage, The (ballet, S), 40 
Caldara, 84-85 
Canova, 102 
Cantata (S), 150 
Canticum Sacrum (S), 22, 36, 
137, 141 



Capriccio (S), 77 

Carra, Carlo, 103, 105 

Carter, Elliott, 124 

Casella, Alfredo, 38, 69 n. 

Chagall, 114-15 

Chaliapin, 66-67 

Chant du Rossignol, Le (S), 
106; see also Nightingale, The 

Chinese March, The (in Night- 
ingale), 72 n. 

Chinese Pirates, The (Milan 
puppet theater), 104-5 

Chopin, 29, 30 

Cimarosa, 84 

Cinque Canti (Dallapiccola), 

Cipriano da Rore, 85 
Claudel, 41 
Cocteau, 61 n., 96 n., 98, 108, 


Cohen (philosopher), 100 
Compere, Loyset, 142 
Concerto for Nine Instruments 

(Webern), 123, 150 
Cooper, Gary, 101 
Coup de Des, Un (Mallarm6), 

Couperin, Frangois, 145 
Craft, Robert, 89 
Croce, Giovanni, 85 
Cui, Cesar, 43, 46 

Dallapiccola, 136 

D'Annunzio, 94-95 

Danse Sacrale (Sacre du Prin- 

temps, S), 19, 21 
Dante, 77 

Daphnis et Chloe, 72 
Dargomizhsky, 46 
David project (Cocteau and S), 

61 n. 

Debussy, 31, 39, 5o~59> 60, 63, 

65, 75, 131 
Debussy, Emma-Claude, 52 n., 

Delage, Maurice, 69, 71 
Delauney, Robert, 113 
Derain, 111-12 
Deux Improvisations sur Mal- 

larme (Boulez), 147 
Diaghilev, 47, 48, 55, 61 n., 66, 

68, 76, 83, 94, 95, 96, 97, 98, 

103, 105, 106, 107, 108, 

110-11, 112, 113, 114, 115, 

116, 118, 129 
Diphonas (of Threni, S), 18 
Dithyrambe (of Duo Concer- 

tant, S), 20 
Doctor and the Devils, The 

(Dylan Thomas), 86 
Doktor Faust (Busoni), 99 
Donatello, 102 
Donna, se mancidete (Gesu- 

Doret, Gustave, 58 
Dostoievsky, 93 
Duke Hercules Mass (Josquin), 

Duo Concertant, 19, 20 

Eight Symphony (Beethoven), 

28, 145 
Einstein, Albert, 84 
Elegias (of Threni, S), 18 
Eliot, T. S., 77, 137 
Emperor Quartet (Haydn), 133 
En blanc et noir (Debussy), 

52 n. 
Errazuriz, Eugenia, 117 
Erwartung (Schoenberg), 147- 




Falstaff (Verdi), 83 

Farewell Symphony (Haydn), 


Faune et Bergdre (S), 26 n., 40 

Fils Prodigue, Le (ballet, Proko- 
fiev), 115 

Firebird, The (S), 41, 65, 76, 
107-8, 113, 115 

Fireworks (S), 103 

Five Pieces for Orchestra 
(Schoenberg), 79 

Flight of the Bumble Bee (Rim- 
sky-Korsakov), 40, 41 n. 

Fontanelli, Count Alfonso, 34 

Franck, Cesar, 79 

Fritsch, Von (author of Bees, 
their Chemical Sense and Lan- 
guage), 40 

Fiirstner, Adolph, 115 

Gabrieli, Giovanni, 85 

Galuppi, 84 

Gesang der Jiinglinge (Stock- 
hausen), 125 

Gesualdo, 33-34 

Giacometti, 101-2 

Gilbert and Sullivan, 35 

Glazunov, 37-38, 46 

Gleizes, Albert, 113 

Glinka, 45-46 

Gloria Patri (from Monteverdi's 
Vespers), 21 

Gliickliche Hand, Die (Schoen- 
berg), 78 

Godebski family, 71 

Goethe, 58-59 

Gogol, 68 

Goldoni, 85 

Golovine, 107 

Golubev, Mme., 94 

Goncharova (wife of Larionov), 

Gromyko, Andrei, 97 
Gruyypen (Stockhausen), 123 
Guillaume, Georges, 96 n. 

Handel, 78 
Hardy, Thomas, 147 
Hauptmann, Gerhardt, 112 
Haydn, 16, 133, 139, 142, 145 
Heard, Gerald, 40 
Heidegger, 100 
Herbert, George, 136 
Herzgewachse (Schoenberg), 79 
Histoire du Soldat, V (S), 13, 

63 n., 64 n., 99, 128 
Hofmannsthal, Hugo von, 84 
Hotson, Leslie, 34 
Houdon, 102 
Hucbald, 142 
Husserl, Edmund, 100 

Ibsen, 93, 94 

Ielatchich, Alexander, 44 

Is Another World Watching? 

(Heard), 40 
Islamey (Balakirev), 38 

Jacob, Max, 96 n. 

Jacob's Ladder (Schoenberg), 


Jawlensky, Alexis, 112 
Jeu de Cartes (S), 144 
Jeux (Debussy), 53 
Josquin, 18, 23, 142, 145 

Kafka, 78 
Kahn, Otto, 111 

Kammerkonzert (Berg), 80, 134 
Kandinsky, 99-100 



Khovanshchina (S and Ravel), 

Kireievsky, 48-49 
Klee, Paul, 31, 75, 99, 102 
Koussevitzky, 56, 57 
Krenek, 154 

Laloy, Louis, 52 

Lamentations, see Threni 

Larionov, 110, 111, 114 

Lassus, 141 

Laudate Pueri (from Monte- 
verdi's Vespers), 21 

Laurencin, Marie, 115 

Lauze, de, 19 

Lawrence, D. H., 126 

Lee, Vernon, 84 

Legend of Joseph (ballet, R. 
Strauss), 83, 116 

Leger, 113-14 

Liapunov, 46 

Liebermann, Max, 112-13 

Life for the Tsar, A (Glinka), 

Lipnitsky, 114 
Liszt, 15, 44, 46 
Livre de Mallarme, Le (Sche- 

rer), 32 
Loewe, 78 
Lulu (Berg), 30, 80, 142 

Maeterlinck, 40-41 
Mahler, 38-39, 80, 81, 84 
Malipiero, G. F., 95 
Mallarme, 31-32 
Manet, 116 

Manfred (Tchaikovsky), 39 
Marcello, Benedetto, 84 
Mariinsky Theater, St. Peters- 
burg, 37 
Marinetti, 103, 104, 105 

Marriage of Figaro, The (Mo- 
zart), 93 

Marteau sans Maitre, Le (Bou- 
lez), 23, 122, 139, 146, 147, 

Mass (S), 36, 141 

Massine, 117 

Matisse, 106-7 

Mavra (S), 23, 98, 108, 111 

Mayakovsky, 97-98 

Mendelssohn, 41 n. 

Mersenne, Mavin, 19 

Micheaux, Henri, 24 

Mir Isskoustva, 107, 112 

Mitusov, S. N., 106 

Modern Psalms (Schoenberg), 


Modigliani, 96 

Mondrian, 16, 144-45 

Monet, 97 

Monn, G. M. and J. M., 78 

Monteux, 47 

Monteverdi, 21, 85 

Moses und Aron (Schoenberg), 

Moussorgsky, 43, 44-45, 66, 67 
Mozart, 84, 136 
Murat, Princess Violette, 99 
Mussolini, 94-95 

Nabokov, Nicolas, 114 
Napravnik, E. F., 37 
Nicolson, Sir Harold, 94 
Nightingale, The (S), 60, 61, 

62, 63, 69, 72, 94, 106 
Nijinsky, 47-48, 53, 61 n., 110 
Nikisch, 38 
Nikolsky, 45 
Noces, Les (S), 48-49, 73, 110- 

11, 115, 132 
Nocturnes (Debussy), 58 



Notebooks (von Hofmannsthal), 

8 4 

Nouvelle Revue Frangaise, La, 

60, 63-64 
Nuages gris (Liszt), 15 

Obrecht, 85, 145 

Ockeghem, 142, 145 

Octuor (S), 137-38 

Ode to Napoleon (Schoenberg), 

Oedipus Rex (S), 17, 36, 84, 

111, 145 
Oeil, V (periodical), 71 n. 
Orpheus (S), 17 
Orsini, 34 

Ortega y Gasset, 17, 100-1 
Othello (Verdi), 83 

Parsifal (Wagner), 51 

Pergolesi, 85 

Persephone (S), 17, 21 

Petit Concert (from L'Histoire 

du Soldat, S ) , 13 
Petroushka (S), 50, 51, 52, 62, 

64, 76, 81, 95, 109, 110, 112 
Piano Concerto (S), 18, 23, 144 
Piano Piece No. XI (Stock- 

hausen), 126 
Piano Quartet, G-minor 

(Brahms), 27 
Piano Sonata (S), 23 
Picasso, 96 n., 107, 109, 116-18, 

146; Olga, 117 
Pierne, G., 108 
Pierrot Lunaire (Schoenberg), 

31, 76, 79, 128 
Pigalle, 102 

Poetics of Music (S), 83 
Polignac, Princess E. de, 110, 


Powell, Michael, 86 
Pratella, F. B., 104 
Prince Igor (Borodin), 105 
Prokofiev, 97 
Proust, 98-99 

Pulcinella (S), 85, 116, 118 
Purcell, 36 
Pushkin, 48, 49, 93 
Puvis de Chavannes, 106 

Quartet (Schoenberg, 1897), yy 

Rachmaninov, 42-43, 151 
Radiguet, Raymond, 98 
Ragtime (S), 117 
Rakes Progress, The (S), 87, 

Ramuz, C. F., 64, 99 
Ravel, 27, 29, 61 n., 66-73; 

Edouard (R.'s brother), 70, 

Reger, Max, 38, 79 
Renard (S), 36, 98 

114, 115, 144 
Richter, Hans, 38 
Rigoletto (Verdi), 83 
Rimsky-Korsakov, 26 n.. 

28 n., 38, 39-40, 41 n 

44-45, 46, 66, 67 
Riviere, Jacques, 60-65 
Rodin, 95-96, 102 
Roerich, Nicolas, 105-6, 108 
Rogers, Shorty, 131-32 
Roi des Etoiles, Le (S), 54 
Romeo and Juliet (Tchaikov 

sky), 26 n. 
Rouault, 115 
Russolo, 103, 104 

110, 111. 



Sacre du Printemps, Le (S), 19, 
N47-48, 50, 52-53, 55 n., 60, 


64, 67, 69, 105-6, 109, 123, 

137, 144 
Satie, 67, 74-75 
Scarlatti, 85 
Scheler, 100 

Scherchen, Hermann, 76, 99 
Scherer, Jacques, 32 n. 
Scherzo (of Eighth Symphony, 

Beethoven), 28 
Scherzo Fantastique (S), 40- 

42 n. 
Schmitt, Florent, 69 n., 71 
Schoeller, 96 n. 
Schoenberg, Arnold, 23, 27, 29, 

31, 76-79, 93, 1^7, 128, 133, 

142, 145 
Schubert, 39 
Schumann, 25 
Schiitz, 145 
Scriabin, 39-40 
Set disposto (Gesualdo), 34 
Septet (S), 22 
Seraphita (Schoenberg), 79 
Serenade (Schoenberg), 79, 128 
Serov, A. N., 108 
Sert, J. M. and Misia, 71 n., 

Seurat, 17 

Shestakova, Ludmilla, 45-46 
Sibelius, 127 

Slauzol, la Marquise de, 100 
Societe de la Musique Actuelle, 


Society for Private Performances 

(Vienna), yy 
Socrate (Satie), 74-75 
Some People (Nicolson), 94 
Spectre de la Rose, he (ballet 

music by Weber), 110 
Spem in Alium Nunquam Habui 

(Tallis), 148 

Stassov, 28 n. 

Stein, Gertrude, 146 

Stendhal, 25 

Stockhausen, Karlheinz, 122-23, 
125, 126, 146, 150 

Strauss, Richard, 39, 83-84, 115, 

Stravinsky, Mme. Catherine, 
Stravinsky's first wife, 69-70, 
89 (and various refs. in let- 
ters), see also Bosset, Vera de 
(Stravinsky's second wife); 
Goury, 93-94; Soulima, 77; 
Theodore, 115 

Studies of the Eighteenth Cen- 
tury in Italy (Vernon Lee), 


Surge Aquilo (from Canticum 
Sacrum, S), 133 

Survage, 111 

Sylphides, Les (Ballet music), 
29-30, 109 

Symphonies of Wind Instru- 
ments (S), 144 

Symphony (Webern), 148 

Symphony in C (S), 19, 21 

Symphony in E-flat (S), 26 n., 

Symphony in Three Movements 
(S), 29, 135 

Symphony of Psalms (S), 36 

Szanto, 72 

Tagebiicher (Klee), 31 

Tallis, 19, 148 

Tchaikovsky, 26 n., 39, 41 n., 

43, 130, 136 
Tchelichev, Pavel, 114 
Tenischev, Princess, 105 
Thomas, Dylan, 86-91; Caitlin, 




Three Japanese Lyrics (S), 67, 

Three Pieces for Orchestra, op.6 

(Berg), 80-81 
Threni (S), 14, 18, 19, 30, 

132 n. 141 
Time (magazine), 137 
Tintoretto, 16 
Trio (Webern), 145, 146 
Trois Podmes de MallarmS 

(Ravel), 67, 69 

Valery, Paul, 18 

Valse, La (Ravel), 70 n. 

Variations for Orchestra, op. 31 
(Schoenberg), 29, 79 

Verdi, 83 

Vespers (Monteverdi), 21 

Vie des Abeilles, La (Maeter- 
linck), 40-41 

Visage Nuptial, Le (Boulez), 
78 n. 

Vivaldi, 84 

Vollard, 116 

Von Heute auf Morgen (Schoen- 
berg), 27 
Vroubel, 107 

Wagner, 26 n., 39, 44, 46, 83 
Wallace, Vice-President, 106 
Water Lilies (Monet), 97 
Webern, 18, 76, 77, 79, 80, 81- 
82, 123, 127, 128, 129, 133, 
138, 145, 146, 147, 148, 149, 

150, 151 
Wilder, Thornton, 101 
Willaert, 85 
With Serov in Greece (Bakst), 

Wozzeck (Berg), 80 

Yeats, W. B., 87, 136 

Zborovsky, 96 n. 

Zeitmasse (Stockhausen), 123, 

Ziloti, Alexander, 41 n. 


Date Due 

NOV 4 59 

deu u 



m 6* 

MAR 2 4 '( 


APR 5 '62 

.:■ ''S ■ 

MAY 3 '6 


MAR 4 19 

A D D r> 


Arh 2 





NOV 2 9 ' 

-nr 9 1 1t 


MAY 2 1 l 


JAN 24 

MAY 1 ^ 


Library Bureai 

Cat. No. 1137 




3 5002 00397 0634 

Stravinsky, Igor 

Conversations with Igor Stravinsky 

ML 410 .£932 A33 
Stravinsky, Igor, 1882-1971 

Conversations with Igor 

ML 410 . S932 A33 
Stravinsky, Igor, 1682-1971 

Conversations with Igor